Even as the horrific events unfolded on Wednesday, January 6th in Washington D.C., Maine Department of Education’s social studies content specialist, Joe Schmidt was connecting with teachers from across Maine as they prepared for the conversations that were sure to follow in our classrooms.
We know that the conversations at the end of the week were the first steps in an ongoing journey of making meaning and finding solutions, for our students and our country.
In the coming weeks, we will continue to see the implications of the historic and unprecedented events that took place, as well as the ongoing search for understanding, healing and growing. Our schools have always been places in which we encourage collaboration, dialogue and learning, and now more than ever these skills will be critically important to foster in, and model for, our children.
Some suggested considerations are provided below to help educators as you continue to support students and one another in this tumultuous time.
- Create a safe space for sharing
- Establish and ensure classroom norms are being followed
- Ask students what they understand or have seen (some parents may have shielded younger children, for example)
- Don’t assume or force awareness or a desire to discuss
- Consider your resources for balance, developmental appropriateness
- Focus on video footage and pictures, while trying to avoid commentary and opinion pieces.
- Have students look for contemporary and historical comparisons when possible
- Ask students what they see and how they feel
- Allow students to discuss feelings, or ask questions and carefully monitor norms
- Examine headlines from around the world and discuss how and why this day is represented
- Check in with students frequently in the coming weeks and engage supports for them as needed
- Check in with colleagues, administration and families as partners in the discussion
We understand that what happened on January 6 was an intersection of multiple parts of our republic at work. With this in mind, the resources below have been sorted into different categories, depending on the type of support you are looking for and the topics you wish to address in your classroom.
Resources for Talking About Difficult Topics:
Courageous Conversations About Contentious Topics from the Maine DOE
Specifically Focus On:
- Guide for Setting Ground Rules
- Creating a Classroom Contract (Lesson from Facing History and Ourselves)
- Speak Up for Civility (Classroom contract from Teaching Tolerance)
- Fostering Civil Discourse: A Guide for Classroom Conversations (From Facing History and Ourselves)
- Teaching About Controversial or Difficult Issues (From the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility)
- Civil Discourse in the Classroom (From Teaching Tolerance)
- Your Roadmap for Teaching Controversial Issues (From iCivics)
- Seven Ways to Teach Civil Discourse to Students
- An Age-by-Age Guide on How to Talk About Difficult Topics with Your Children
- Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
- When Bad Things Happen: How to Discuss with Students
- Responding to Tragedy: Resources for Educators and Parents
- Creating Civic Spaces in Troubling Times
- Big Paper: Building a Silent Conversation or Remote Learning Version
Resources Specific to the 1/6/21 Insurrection
- Navigating Unprecedented Historical Events
- How to Engage Students in Civil Discourse Following Events at the U.S. Capitol
- Insurgency at the U.S. Capitol: A Dreaded, Real-Life Lesson Facing Teachers
- How to Teach the U.S. Capitol Attack
- Responding to the Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol
- January 6th, 2021 Resource Guide from New York City Department of Education
- Classroom resource: Three ways to teach the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol
- Leading Conversations After the Insurrection in Washington D.C.
- Attack on the Capitol/ Insurrection in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021 (Lesson from Mikva Challenge)
- Resources for teachers on the days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol
Talking About Foundations of Democracy
- Foundations of Democracy and Government (with resources specific to 1/6/21)
- Symbols for Principles of Democracy Lesson Plan
Teaching About the Electoral College
- The Constitution and the Election Educational Resources
- Explaining how Congress Settles Electoral College Disputes
- Civics in Real Life: The Electoral College
Resources About Peaceful Transitions of Power
- Bill of Rights Institute: Peaceful Transitions
- Frequently Asked Questions about Presidential Transitions
- Election Day to Inauguration Day: What Happens in Those 78 Days?
- Civics in Real Life: Presidential Transition
- Lesson Plan: Learning from Previous Presidential Transitions
We want to remind our educators that if you have questions, ideas, or would like further resources for your classroom, please contact Joe Schmidt at Joe.Schmidt@maine.gov
Should you need support as you process the events and carry the weight of helping students to do the same, please contact the Frontline/Warmline for educators, staffed by retired educators who can provide an empathetic ear and emotional support. The Frontline/Warmline is available 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week, call 207-221-8196 or text 898-211.