How Teachers Are Talking with Students About George Floyd, Protests, and Racism

Because we HAVE to talk about it.

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, teachers are having to address a difficult topic and figure out how to support students experiencing trauma. From check-ins to special lessons, here’s how they’re handling it.

Reaching out

“My students are out of school, but I’ve reached out to check in on my students of color and make sure they’re OK. Their neighborhood was rocked by riots two nights ago, so I worry and it helps me know what they’re seeing and address it.” —Caitlynn

“I teach elementary special education in an inner city school where riots are currently happening. We are out for summer, but I’m working on setting up a time to Zoom this week. I can only imagine how scared they are right now. I’m planning on asking how they are doing and going from there. Making sure they know they are loved and respected.” —Jen

“I student taught in a fourth grade class (still supporting them until the end of the year). I just sent a Dojo message to families letting them know that I’m only a message away if they or their children want to talk and ask questions.” —Lily

Facilitating discussion

“Today we are going to discuss the events that happened and everyone will get a chance to share their feelings about everything going on. Then we are going to learn about race, racism, racial profiling and protesting. They will learn about what everything is, the different types, and how they work.” —Jasmine

Listening

“I teach middle school science. I am a white teacher and 99% of my students are POC. During this week’s Zoom calls, I am just going to ask everyone how they are doing and let them talk. I will sit with them and listen.” —Valerie

“I’d open it up for discussion. Let them lead. They want to know they are heard and safe and respected. Be their anchor of calm.” —Tuesday 

Teaching lessons

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Introducing “Woke Word of the Day”! Today’s #WokeWOTD is “PROTEST”. At @wokekindergarten , we strive to teach children the truth in ways that are kid/friendly, preserve their safety and allow them to think critically about the world in which they live. We encourage families to swipe through and read these slides with your kids. Once you’re finished, we’d like for you and your kids to take action! Show #wokekindergarten that your kids understand the word by encouraging them to create something, or engage in a project, that expands on their learning. We believe in leaving experiential projects open-ended, but for those who need a little inspiration, we plan to create mini-projects that we’ll share as a downloadable PDF when we launch our #patreon. For today, we’ll write directions for a simple project here: 1. Gather materials to create a protest sign (cardstock, poster board, construction paper etc., markers, paint, crayons etc, popsicle sticks, regular sticks—anything to hold the sign if preferred, and tape) 2. Ask your child if there’s anything in the world that’s really bothering them. Anything that they see or know about that feels unfair or wrong. Take the time to engage them in conversation & ask follow-up questions that help them to expand on their own thinking. 3. Give examples of protests that are occurring now, and explain why they’re happening. Keep it real & keep the convo anti-racist, and rooted in empathy, equity and justice. 4. Ask kids to take deeper look at the slides and the photos. Talk about them. Encourage children to name what they see. Model this process for them when necessary. 5. Revisit your initial question & ask if there’s any injustice (or anything that’s unfair in the world that hurts people) that they would protest if they could. 6. Then get to work on your protest project! If your child creates a sign, email it to us at wakeup@wokekindergarten.org; or if they choose to speak up and out, send us or tag @wokekindergarten in a video clip! Remember, there are so many ways to protest (like divesting in ppl or companies). We want to know how you & your kids plan to engage with this learning at home!

A post shared by Woke Kindergarten (@wokekindergarten) on

“I teach first grade and have a huge variety of books about racism that we read and have read all year. We talk a ton about words and the power of words. It is a regular part of my social emotional learning.” —Carol

“Drawings can help. You can do a comic strip and ask them if they were heroes what would they do to make a better place (language for young children), or ask them draw what they want to world to look like.” —Elizabeth

Sending messages of support

—Erika

Scrapping plans

“I was supposed to start teaching a mini-unit on the Civil War this week to my fifth graders. The kids are stressed out almost as much as their parents (we’ve been under curfew since Saturday), so that’s no longer happening. I wish we could meet in person to process these conversations. After 11 weeks of remote learning, many of my students have already ‘shut down.'” —Fumiko

“It was our last day of school today. This was not in my lesson plan. It was my lesson. I teach in a predominantly white upper middle class school. This was what was MOST important.” —Amy

Addressing it directly

“I teach math to high schoolers (mostly Hispanic/Latino/a/x) in downtown LA. My school is five minutes from these riots. It’s unreal. As a white teacher I could easily ignore it, but I feel like it needs to be addressed.” —Amanda

“I do believe that there needs to be more explicit discussion about current events, regardless of age. It is unfortunate that we have to ask ourselves as educators if we will face discipline for doing it, if some person and/or our administration deems it ‘inappropriate.'” —Sarah

How are you broaching the topic of the George Floyd protests with students? Come share in our WeAreTeachers Helpline group on Facebook. 

Plus, White Teachers Need to See Color.

How Teachers Are Talking with Students About George Floyd, Protests, and Racism

Posted by Kimmie Fink

Kimmie is an editor at WeAreTeachers. She has 13 years of classroom teaching experience and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction.

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