We invited Chris Dier, social studies teacher and the 2020 Louisiana Teacher of the Year, to share with us how he is planning to teach his students about the presidential election and address the challenges educators may face.
The 2020 presidential election will present a challenge to educators across the country as they navigate this topic with their students. We are teaching at a time when we are uncertain of who our next president will be as mail-in ballots continue to trickle in and our current president declares both victory and fraud. Students are going to have a lot of questions, thoughts, and concerns as this is unfamiliar territory for them, and teachers are tasked to address them.
First and foremost, it’s best that educators seek to ensure the social and emotional health of the students and cultivate relationships based on tolerance and empathy prior to having these conversations and conducting these lessons. We must teach, but we must care first. Ensure norms for productive discussions are established and students have healthy relationships with one another. Students are experiencing an atypical amount of stress due to the ongoing pandemic, subsequent economic burdens, and all of the events brought on in 2020. Their screens are overloaded with information from various avenues. They may not have the ability to process this as adults would. Classrooms provide a space for them to process.
Despite the challenges teaching the election will inevitably present, teachers—especially those who teach content applicable to these events—may do a disservice to students if they choose to ignore them altogether. As teachers, we must ensure we prepare our students for these scenarios and use them as teachable moments as politics already gravely impacts their lives. The day after the election, I provided time for my students to reflect by jotting down their thoughts in a free-write. They were then allowed to share their thoughts, if they chose to do so. Afterwards, I had an honest, student-led conversation with them.
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