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How to Talk to Students About Current Events

Monday, January 11, 2021

In light of recent challenging current events, it is more important than ever that the Presidio Hill School community provide this support and comfort for each other and our students. 

Presidio Hill's small, loving, inquiry-based community supports students as they lean into difficult conversations. As the latest events at the United States Capitol Building unfolded, Presidio Hill developed age-and-grade-appropriate lesson plans, shared resources with families, and facilitated staff support spaces to help our community navigate the crisis. 

When appropriate, conversations about unfolding current events were handled by the highly skilled PHS faculty members, in partnership with our school counselor, Shannon McGilloway. In middle school, students were offered optional spaces where they could share feelings and process events. In lower school, teachers held similar age-appropriate conversations. Our youngest grades held discussions from the vantage point of "How should someone act when they don't get their way?" and spent time with a read-aloud and class discussion about feeling secure and loved and brainstorming how to support others. Older grades were offered student-led open space to talk about their emotions, wonderings, and hopes, with a focus on sharing feelings, showing empathy for those directly impacted, sharing fact-based information, and supporting and reassuring each other, and were encouraged to focus their understanding through the lens of privilege, justice, and power dynamics. See below for a sample lesson from PHS 5th Grade.

PHS 5th Grade Class Discussion - Difficult Current Events in the United States:

To fifth graders we posed the following questions: 

  • How do you feel right now? 
    • Fifth graders shared feelings of confusion, anger, disappointment 
  • Have you ever lost a game or class vote? What happens when you don’t get your way? What are some ways that you deal with being on the losing side? How do you react when you don’t get your way? 
    • All fifth graders shared that they’ve lost a game or vote at some point.
    • One fifth grader shared that when they’ve lost, they just shrug and say “okay!”.
    • Another fifth grader shared they might feel sad about losing, but know the vote or game was fair so they are able to bounce back 
  • What is privilege? How do we see this play out in this current scenario? 
    • Fifth graders shared: You can do certain things/get certain things (i.e staying up later; having your own computer/having your own room)
    • Contrast in police response of BLM movement and events at the Capitol
    • Frustration and confusion around treatment of people of color when fighting against injustice 
  • How can we make the future better? 
    • Fifth graders shared ideas around young changemakers and ways they can fight for their rights and beliefs 

For a little calmness and inspiration, 5th grade ended their day with a GoNoodle Flow Unwind Exercise and this Pep Talk for the World from Kid President 

. . . . . 

What is most important right now is that students feel safe, secure, and cared for at home and in school. Our connections with each other precede everything. Below are resources about handling conversations about unsettling current events from PHS counselor, Shannon McGilloway.