PRIORITY NOTICE: Supporting Courageous Classroom Conversations Regarding January 6, 2021 Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol

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: 

Resources Specific to the 1/6/21 Insurrection 

Talking About Foundations of Democracy 

Teaching About the Electoral College 

Resources About Peaceful Transitions of Power 

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 

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.