These are potentially depressing times. Turn on the “news” and you find out about brutality, intolerance, corruption and greed at almost every level of our society. As teachers we can’t ignore that. Too often we try to shelter our students and pretend to educate them in a world absent conflict. But that doesn’t serve them. It helps continue the problem that we do not prepare students for the real world.
Now I am not suggesting that we plop 1st graders down in front of Fox News or CNN and scare the bejesus out of them. That’s not teaching. But the children in your room come from the outside world to you and you are often times the safest space they have. So it is incumbent on you to find a way to both respect that space and give them tools with which to deal with the world they will re-enter after the last bell each day.
If you don’t feel comfortable addressing this, find a site online that might help you. You may have people in your District whose job it is to create lessons that adjust to this. Talk to parents to see what they are facing. There is unemployment, fear of a crumbling structure, racism, changes in living conditions, sexism, military deployments, it isn’t the Dick & Jane world I knew as a child and most classrooms operate under.
Do the research and don’t wait for someone else to handle it. “I just teach Math” or “I am just a 3rd grade teacher” are not valid excuses to not form positive and affirming relationships with your students. Maslow made it pretty darn clear that, if students don’t feel safe, you can have the meaning of life and they aren’t going to hear it.