The bildungsroman or coming-of-age novel is a staple of secondary literature education, and for good reason. Since its emergence in the early 18th century, this literary genre has brought us an array of powerful stories of young people undergoing trials, wrestling with their values, exploring their identities, and transforming themselves and their worlds—and all from their own perspectives.
Back when I had my own classroom, nothing fired me up for the school year more than getting my room ready. I’d spend hours putting up posters, adorning the walls with eye-catching student work from previous school years while leaving space for new student work. I’d create new systems for homework collection and book borrowing, arranging desks to maximize space and de-center myself as the “sage on the stage.” I always strove to create a welcoming, uncluttered space that said, “You are safe here, you are celebrated here, and you will also work hard when you are in this room.”
In three parallel interviews, I had the opportunity to speak with three Facing History educators from public and private schools about their institution’s move to remote instruction this fall. Their roles encompass teacher and school leadership functions, and all are now exploring what the coming months will look like in the virtual classroom. Plans to implement remote instruction have been provoking challenging questions, concerns, and bold visions for the future of education beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn how each of these educators is navigating the return to school below:
In three parallel interviews, I had the opportunity to speak with three Facing History educators from middle and high schools located on the East Coast of the United States. They range in experience level from new to veteran and work in schools large and small. Each is planning to return to work this fall in a hybrid format in which they will deliver some instruction remotely and the rest in person in a classroom. Plans to implement hybrid modes of instruction have been provoking immense questions, concerns, and even expansive visions for the future of education beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn how each of these educators is navigating the return to school below:
It may seem like the world’s greatest understatement to observe that much has happened since schools shuttered and moved online in early 2020. Our communities have weathered (and continue to weather) multiple overlapping crises and conflicts, as well as come together in solidarity, support, and resistance. As educators return to the classroom—many through virtual means—there are a great many events to recollect and reflect upon. What follows is a list of some of the themes that we are sitting with from the last several months, as well as links to articles sharing perspectives that educators might consider as they prepare to greet students and colleagues.
In a recent interview, I spoke with Dr. Justin Reich of MIT where he serves as Assistant Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Director of the Teaching Systems Lab. Here Dr. Reich shares some of his expertise on teaching in the time of COVID, the use of design charrettes to devise holistic solutions to emergent challenges, and how educators can attend to and design for some of the unique vulnerabilities facing families in their communities.
“This framework is centered on compassion and care, fierce commitment to viewing students as knowledgeable and capable, and viewing the invitation to bring life experiences into school as integral to day-to-day teaching and learning.” —Dr. Elizabeth Dutro
In a recent interview, I spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Dutro and Alex Shevrin Venet concerning the need for trauma-informed teaching in these times. Dr. Dutro is a professor and chair of the Literacy Studies program at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. There, she draws on past classroom experience and her extensive research to design pedagogies that make space for difficult experiences to be honored as knowledge in schools. Her publications include her book The Vulnerable Heart of Literacy: Centering Trauma as Powerful Pedagogy. Venet is a Vermont-based, industry-leading trainer, educator, and writer helping educators implement trauma-informed practices across the country. Her first book, Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education, is forthcoming from W. W. Norton in spring 2021.
Amid the traumas and upheavals sweeping our communities over the last many months, education leaders everywhere have been urging schools to center social-emotional learning (SEL) this fall. Whether one’s coursework will be conducted online, in person, or through a hybrid format, SEL is a foundation of effective teaching in the best of times and a vital lifeline in times of difficulty. In these times, it is crucial that educators come equipped with an educational plan that begins with nurturing adolescents’ sense of community and connection at school. And it is also crucial that educators come prepared to acknowledge the diverse array of experiences that community members are bringing back into the classroom. The demands of teaching don’t always allow educators to take a deep dive into the how’s and why’s of SEL but there’s never been a better time to do so. Here’s what educators need to know about this essential framework this year.
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.
The philosopher Hannah Arendt said that the essence of being human is participating in moral discourse with others. "The things of the world become human for us only when we can discuss them with our fellows. We humanize what is going on in the world and in ourselves only by speaking of it, and in the course of speaking of it we learn to be human." In a reflective classroom community, students work together in an engaging study of our past, and of our world today. Knowledge is constructed, not passively absorbed. And students, with both hearts and minds mobilized, are seen as subjects actively engaged in a community of learners. A trusting classroom atmosphere like this creates the space for deep, democratic learning. The creation of an environment like this requires a thoughtful approach.