As educators, we have a moral responsibility to have challenging conversations in our classrooms. Real-world events directly impact our students. Our students have questions and look to trusted adults for information and guidance. When significant events happen, when our nation experiences tragedy, when we need to have those challenging conversations with our students, it’s important not to tackle it alone.
As teachers, especially as teachers who might not have the first-hand experience with the topic at hand, we need to have reliable and credible sources to help us have those challenging conversations with our students.
Helpful Resources Anti-Bias and Anti-Racist Resources for Teachers
The Antidefamation League has a section dedicated to educational resources for teachers, parents, and families. One of my favorite things about the ADL’s educational resource center is the premade lesson plans that teachers can easily filter by topic and grade level. The ADL also has Anti-Bias tools and strategies that teachers can implement into their classrooms. I’ve found this lesson about Everyday Bias extremely helpful.
Teaching Tolerance is another excellent site that has helpful resources for teachers looking to have those challenging classroom discussions. Teaching Tolerance has lesson plans and student texts available to teachers. For professional development, I especially like the Teaching Tolerance podcast about teaching hard history.
Facing History and Ourselves
Facing History and Ourselves also has a section entirely dedicated to educator resources. This site is beneficial for English teachers because it includes helpful resources for literature that is still taught in today’s classrooms. For example, if you are still teaching To Kill a Mockingbird, I highly recommend that you pair it with information from Facing History so that the context of United States history concerning the book is accurately discussed.
Tech Sites to Use for Student Voice
While teachers need to bring up important and challenging topics in class, these discussions should not be teacher-focused. As educators, our role is to open up the door, share the undisputed facts and objective reality, and provide our students with the time and space to read, learn, think, and reflect on the issues. Our middle school and high school students are incredibly capable of handling these issues, thinking for themselves, and reflecting on significant world issues.
In doing this, I like to provide my students with an open, yet anonymous, place to share their thoughts because I want them to see what their peers are thinking. And yes, I am comfortable having students post anonymously. Of course, I wouldn’t do this at the beginning of the year, but once I establish norms and community, I feel safe to go this route. I have not had any issues (yet -knock on wood).
Here are a few of the online sites I like to use to have students share and collaborate digitally and in real-time:
While it isn’t entirely anonymous, Google Jamboard is a great tool to have students share their thoughts. One of the easiest ways to use this platform is by having students type their responses on a sticky note and post it to the Jamboard.
I’ve used and loved Padlet for years now. While students can post under their names, they can also post anonymously. Think of Padlet as a digital corkboard that holds images, text, and even video!
I just found this resource and started using it. WOW! You need to try this ASAP. While there is a paid option, the free option suffices. Mentimeter is similar to Peardeck in a way. Students can scan a QR code and join the presentation and add in their thoughts. However, as you set up your Mentimeter presentation, you can choose which option you want to use. The word cloud option is fantastic because it will automatically populate the student responses into a responsive word cloud.
Before attempting to facilitate challenging conversations alone, especially without adequate, first-hand knowledge or experience, we must turn to helpful resources. The ADL, Teaching Tolerance, and Facing History are beneficial resources for teachers in today’s society.