On Teaching the Day After the Capitol Riots…

From a teacher friend. TLDR; even imperfect but heartfelt actions of compassion can effect your students in ways you may never know.

The day after the Capitol Riots, I was sitting in my classroom before school, and I got a phone call from another math teacher. He wanted to know what I was going to do differently that day with regards to the Riots. I was like “Um? Hadn’t thought about it….I mean, we teach math….leave that to the Social Studies teachers!” I had remembered brushing by all the “Teachers, you must address this with your students tomorrow” articles the night before. So, right then I began reading them….they said things like “the students will need to process”, and “it’s white supremacy NOT to address it”….all sorts of things that had my mind spinning.

So, I decided to take a pause, and when the students came, I talked to them. I “checked in”….I had them all write to me in the chat how they are all doing with “everything”. They wrote tough things. As they wrote them, I acknowledged each one by simply saying “thanks for sharing” or “wow, that’s rough!”. Then, I talked to them about how on the one hand, doing things like solving a trig equation can seem really silly in light of all that was happening around us, and that I get that….and that I don’t want to be insensitive to the realities all around us. But, at the same time, that in 51 years of life that I have learned that if I can’t control things around me, to try my best to focus on the the things that I CAN control…and right now, for me, that’s teaching them this math, and that maybe just maybe, they could use the math as something that is in their control and it can help them get through all this yucky stuff.

Well, fast forward to right now. A student just wrote me and told me that on that day, the riots had sent her in to such despair that she had decided to commit suicide that night (by taking pills). But, that by the end of my talk, she felt like 1) somebody finally showed they cared about her and 2) that she suddenly had hope. She said that she felt “happy” all of a sudden and that in the weeks since then, that she has continued to feel that way.Wow. I’m speechless.

Those 10 minutes saved a life. I’m so grateful that teacher called me.

Teachers (myself included), please take the time to check in with your students!

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