Teachers, How Are You Teaching About Charlottesville?

Punita RiceTeaching

Teachers, how are you teaching about Charlottesville? I’ve been thinking about this since teachers and students are heading back to school in the coming weeks. Teachers are going to need to engage with students about the recent events in Charlottesville, and the intense mood of the country. And, teachers will have to be prepared to have meaningful discussions about tolerance, hatred, and the increasingly brazen racism in our country.

The events of Charlottesville were particularly hard to swallow because I have such positive memories and feelings when I think of that city. A few years ago, I got to spend a lovely summer at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in a summer institute. Teachers and researchers from around the country came together to study philosophy, collaborate, and develop resources for students in diverse education settings, built on philosophical concepts and rooted in philosophical reasoning skills. I touched base with some of the lovely women I became friends with in the program after the events of last week to get their takes. Here, I’m sharing what some friends from my time at UVA had to say, plus, some resources for teaching about Charlottesville…

Mary Palisoul has taught English in Boston for years, and is now based in California. She shared that she “can’t reconcile the images and stories in the news with my memories of Charlottesville.”

Missy Davis, a teacher in Atlanta, says,

“What happened in Charlottesville is horrific, and it touched me powerfully because Charlottesville is a dear place to me: I studied philosophy there, I met amazing people there, I got engaged there. It was a place of love and learning for me.

And so, seeing the hate and violence happen there of all places was especially tragic (though it would be tragic anywhere else as well).”

Missy went on to say that White people and Christians both now have an obligation to speak out. She also shared that while she feels “overwhelmed by racial injustice because it is so heartbreaking that I don’t know what to say… we must say something.”

Tedi Kahn, is a teacher in Chicago Public Schools. She shared that “[it] deeply saddens me that the same community that is home to a prestigious university is also a site to so much hate and ignorance.”

Tedi also said the recent events serve as “a reminder of the importance of education, and our roles as educators to expose our students to all walks of life, perspectives, and experiences.”

Her focus this school year is on what really matters:

  • Developing empathy (even more so than emphasizing their ACT scores)
  • Engaging with students through experiences (even more than teaching merely from textbooks)
  • Helping students develop compassion (even more than just improving their GPAs)

Resources for Teaching About Charlottesville

If you’re a teacher, you might already have a plan for how you plan to engage your new students about Charlottesville and the zeitgeist of our nation. But just in case you need more resources, or some inspiration, I’m sharing some ideas below.

On Twitter, teachers are sharing resources on using the hashtag #CharlottesvilleCurriculum (here’s an article about it)

A collection of resources for teachers to use when teaching about Charlottesville (from NPR)

Teaching resources related to race, bigotry, and history, in context of Charlottesville (from FacingHistory.org)

Activities for teaching about Charlottesville (from The New York Times)

And, thoughts on teaching love after Charlottesville, how to talk to students about Charlottesville, thoughts on why we need to teach students differently, and this lovely post (from Man Repeller) on the importance of word choice, and ideas for how to take a stand.

Teachers, how are you teaching about Charlottesville, hatred, and the current national social climate?

(Photo of Marianne Rubin taken by her granddaughter, Lena Schnall. Originally shared here.)

P.S. – A while ago I shared some thoughts on Jane Elliott’s lesson about intolerance, and expressed that it might not be as relevant today as it was decided ago. Now I’m realizing it may be just as relevant and necessary today. Also, here’s a lesson plan for spreading kindness.

P.P.S. – Here’s Barack Obama’s tweet following last week’s events, and here’s a handy flowchart about Nazis. Also, here’s a podcast about the need to “Pick a Side” on NPR’s “It’s Been a Minute” with Sam Sanders last week (featuring my friend Priska Neely).