One of my clearest memories of discovering how much I loved to read is of sprinting through Shel Silverstein’s poetry collections. I remember how delighted I was to learn that he had written many, how fascinated I was to understand that “author” was a job some adults in fact had. That, just like my parents who went to work everyday, authors like Shel wrote and got paid. I started filling my own notebooks with illustrations and the prose of an eight-year-old. Later, learning that Shel Silverstein was Jewish, just like me, made me weigh some of his words differently. It was my first understanding of what writing as a minority might look like. I was hooked.
As a 12-year-old African American boy fresh off the influence of Malcolm X’s autobiography, I didn't always appreciate the ethical stock of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember watching a news report about his birthday and remarking, to the dismay of my mother that, "Martin Luther King was a sell-out."
South Africans, like many people in the United States right now, and many in Colombia and the United Kingdom, have been thinking deeply about who we are, where we came from, and where we are heading as a country. In 2016, South Africans also woke up, one morning, to a changing shift in the political landscape—a view we had become accustomed to. What seemed unlikely once was now before our eyes. Local government elections saw major cities across the country, including Pretoria, the seat of government, now in the hands of the opposition. Where once race divided our votes, now the need for an accountable, honest, and committed government has begun to unite us.
November 9 marked the 78th anniversary of a series of violent attacks against Jews spread across Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. Known as Kristallnacht, or “the night of broken glass,” it was the most open and violent attack on Jews by the Nazi regime up until that time. The aftermath was devastating: between 1,500 and 3,000 Jews were killed; 30,000 were sent to concentration camps; over 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed; and synagogues across Germany were burned down.
Bringing current events into the classroom creates some very interesting challenges for teachers. The classroom is a community of diverse people with diverse stories, experiences, and points of view. The teacher is not just an instructor but also a member of the community with their own stories, experiences, and points of view. How do educators navigate their own personal feelings while creating safe space for students to share? How do educators walk the fine line between teaching and telling, between educating and indoctrinating? These are important questions educators must grapple with when charged with creating social and emotional safe spaces for discussing current events.