Most of the materials we found promoted being reassuring. Being reassuring on the day the students are upset is a caring stance, but it should not be akin to denial of a critical situation and needs to be followed up by educational activities.
I don’t only want to tell my students that I’ll protect them, but that I want them to learn how to protect themselves and speak out. Reassuring them sounds like trying to neglect that there is racism, sexism and xenophobia, but there is. With my students I want to focus on what they can do now. I strongly believe that what they feel now needs to be directed to creating progress rather than depression or hate.”
M.H. teacher in Germany
It can be followed up by activities that help young children process democratic process at a level they can grasp. You can find activities for the curious 6-7 year olds, the social 8-9 year and the more self-conscious pre-teens.
We found many resources targeting older students. Teachers have the choice to go towards more analysis, while remembering that every learner does better with active learning and enjoyable tasks.
Starting with what they want to learn is crucial.
The morning after, I asked my student what they wanted to do. Here some answers:
- Talk without taboos about what both candidates had in their programmes.
- Let´s vote in our classroom.
- Discuss about consequences for Europe.
- Nothing. Forget it, we have enough with the media. Too much!
- Explore the next elections here in Germany
M. V. teacher in Germany
Voting: organize a mock-election learning to get information before voting, decrypting political leaflets, creating platforms…
Writing: create a diary entry and come back to it later or write their feeling and thoughts on postits, put them on a wall and let them read each others text.
Researching: read coverage from across the political spectrum, search what is the history of this way of thinking? Where is it focused? How have candidates convinced people? Understanding voter registration and turnout: how many people are registered to vote in their district, how many actually voted, what obstacle to voting exist? What is disenfranchisement, fraud, voter apathy, and voter intimidation? What are ways to improve voter turnout? What can WE do?
Young adults in schools are often students living away from their home and, often, the only adults they have access to are their teachers. This means that teachers have a duty to consider their role as a teacher of such young adults as flexible and open and encompassing students’ needs, especially in time of crisis and despair.
My students also told me that no other teacher was willing to talk about the US election results that day and they were happy that I said something.
I.L. lecturer in Hungary
But again not all student expresses this need.
After the terrorist attacks in Paris, I devoted a class to speak with my students about it. In the end of semester, when I asked my students to give feedback, half of them said – “it was a good course, except that one seminar, when we were out of topic, and spoke about politics. I am not interested in politics, and I prefer to stay on topic.
R.A. Lecturer in Lithuania
Teachers need to take care of themselves before, and understand their level of comfort with dealing with controversy.
Find your way, take your time: KISS! Keep it short and simple.
- An article from the Huffington Post ‘What to tell the children?”
- “Compasito” includes dozens of activities for the very young, and it’s partner “Compass” focuses on youth.
- See also our blog: ‘Building Rapport’
- Tolerance.org offers a wealth of resources for teachers of all subjects… we found this activity particularly interesting.