Today marks the 56th anniversary of the March on Washington—the historic 1963 protest in which as many as 500,000 people marched to demand jobs and freedom for Americans of all racial backgrounds. Though many of us remember this as the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, it is easy to forget that he was not the only civil rights leader to address the crowd. One of the leaders who joined him was movement veteran Daisy Bates—the only woman permitted to speak, though not in her own words.
As we prepare to return to school this year, knowing how to set the tone for an inclusive, productive classroom environment is essential. Since 1976, Facing History has offered industry-leading tools for establishing a classroom climate that deepens empathy, demands intellectual rigor, and invites a plurality of student voices. And we equip teachers with lessons designed to build this type of climate in our Back-to-School Toolkit. But something as seemingly basic as how we set up the physical space of our classrooms can also have a significant impact on classroom culture and learning outcomes.
Since 2000, the United Nations has championed International Youth Day as a time to bring young people’s issues to the attention of the international community, and “celebrat[e] the potential of youth as partners in today’s global society.” Though all young people face difficulties as they cross the threshold from childhood to adulthood, how they navigate the challenges of youth is shaped significantly by their identities, the histories that inform them, and the disparate contexts in which they live around the world. And the high degree of complexity can make it difficult for teachers to build empathy across divides.
On August 5th in New York City, legendary writer, editor, and educator Toni Morrison died. As countless figures around the country reflect upon her legacy, we find an opportunity to consider her impact on American culture and the responsibilities of educators everywhere.
Over the last week, mass shootings across the country—from Gilroy, California; to El Paso, Texas; to Dayton, Ohio—claimed over 30 lives and left 69 injured. These horrific events—one of them, a hate crime—evoke a range of emotions from anger to fear to sorrow as we mourn the loss of the victims, and watch their families and communities grieve the immeasurable losses that have befallen them.
Summer 2019 marks the centennial of what author and activist James Weldon Johnson referred to as “Red Summer,” a series of 1919 lynchings and other acts of violence against African Americans across the country. These events, which unfolded in several cities including Chicago and Washington, DC, are not widely known or taught. But they should be as our nation grapples with the history of racism and its legacies.
For teachers who don’t hold additional jobs, summer vacation offers an opportunity for a hard reset—a time to recharge from the madness of the academic year and prepare for the rigors of the next one. But it’s hard to find solace in the slowed pace of summer when it’s only a matter of time before we will, again, feel the stressors of the classroom. The chronic stress at the heart of teacher burnout follows us all year long, and the consequences may be more far-reaching than we think. Though declines in teachers’ health and students’ academic performance are among the major consequences of teacher burnout, the emotional intelligence of our students is also at stake.
We know that the first week of the school year is a crucial time for teachers to get to know their students, and to establish welcoming and inclusive classroom communities. To support teachers as they lay the foundation for a reflective and courageous community, we are pleased to launch the “Back-to-School Toolkit: Building a Student-Centered Learning Community for the First Days of School.”
Formed in collaboration with Facing History and Ourselves in 2005, The Facing History School is a public high school deeply informed by Facing History pedagogy within the New York City Public Schools. In a recent interview, I spoke with Yenny Bautista—alumna and Fulbright English Teaching Fellow to Brazil—about how the Facing History experience stirred her call to teach.
Dr Kurt Brandhorst and Dr Rachel Jones, philosophy lecturers at George Mason University in Virginia, recently taught an undergraduate course called “Philosophy After Auschwitz”. Through the course, they wanted to confront the issue of bearing witness to what happened in the Nazi concentration camps, the work camps, and the death camps - not just as a historical question but as an ongoing responsibility for us today. Beki Martin, the Executive Director of Facing History in the UK interviewed them to find out more.