Thursday, March 29, 2012

teaching Trayvon Martin

Sometimes things happen that captivate the attention of people in powerful ways. Along with many others, I have been thinking a lot about Trayvon Martin's death. In a middle school and then a high school earlier this week, I overheard several conversations outside of class between students discussing the case and their responses to the murder, and there have been events in schools and college campuses all week to help people make sense of what happened. Along with the huge response by young people to the Kony video posted on YouTube a few weeks ago, there are a lot of discussion of race, power, rights, and justice happening with our youth lately.

It can be complex and scary to hold discussions of these topics with students. Navigating conversations about race can be uncomfortable and messy. These conversations get charged with emotion and, I know in my own experience until I was more confident in leading these discussions, it can seem easier to shut it down and move on. But the students in our classes are concerned about and engaged in this case, and need space to have structured dialogues with people who can help them make sense of these issues that, for some, have daily implications for their lives.

Below are some resources if you are interested in having conversations about this case with your students.
  • The Learning Network blog at the NY Times has a guest blog post written by a 19-year-old black teenager's response to the case. 
  • Teaching Tolerance has an insightful and powerful blog posting related to Trayvon's death. 
  • A teacher's blog post provides links to some helpful readings to understand the context of the outrage over this murder. 
  • Though written for teacher educators, this article might have some helpful ideas to think about for leading discussions around this case.
Have your students been talking about this case? How have you navigated these conversations in the classroom? Any advice to other teachers wanting to find a way to start these dialogues?


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