It is impossible to ignore current events of this great nation. Not only is it impossible, but it would be a disservice to students to not address the issues that are occurring in our classrooms. Whether you teach in a predominately white or black school, or one where the demographics are evenly distributed, conversations must occur. To ignore it is to sweep it under the rug as if nothing is happening. School is real life, and the situations between police, black lives, and all lives, is real. Teachers are trained to bring community into school, to make lessons meaningful, engaging, and relevant for students. It can't get any realer than this! These are truly trying times for many. Educators may be faced with students' frustration, confusion, sadness, anger, and many questions. Are students engaging in deep conversations at home? Maybe yes, or no, but you are the conductor of your train. Have tough conversations with students. How do you do this?
Create the forum and facilitate deep, rich conversations for students. Help them understand key terms such as racism, discrimination, and prejudice. This is a difficult thing to do, but pretending as if their are no issues taking place is crazy. Many students also believe these words all have the same meaning. Although they are similar, they have their distinct characteristics.
Teach students how to respect others' opinions even if it is different from their own. Allow students to share their thoughts and feelings respectively. It is a touchy subject but keeping the environment calm and open is imperative. Everyone's perspective is important to hear so make sure to review class norms so voices are heard.
Allow students to engage with each other. Let them to ask questions to each other and prompt thoughts with their peers. This mimics a student-centered classroom.
Allow students to do the talking and only chime in when necessary. Sure, it's ok to make the closing statements, but make sure you remain unbiased. Clear up misconceptions and misunderstanding. You may also "piggy back" off someones question or statement with another thought provoking question to get those minds working.
Make this a recurring discussion. As verdicts are announced in the news and while events continue to take place daily, have more discussions. The "buck should not stop here".
Create lessons from current events. Assign articles, research projects, and writing assignments. Students can debate by using evidence from their readings; they may write an argumentative piece, or present a speech that expresses their thoughts. Incorporate a history lesson or allow them to research events such as the history of the KKK, Black Panthers Movement, Police brutality, etc. You may want to assign a novel to read as a class.
However you incorporate the elephant in the room is up to you, but please don't ignore what is going on. This is part of being a culturally responsive teacher.
...and I hope these few words find you well...