Including current events in the classroom strengthens learning

Including current events in the classroom strengthens learning

Editor’s Note: Chloe Smith was one of two first place winners in this year’s American Education Week Essay Contest.

I was not alive during 9/11, but I’ve seen gut twisting, gruesome footage. 9/11 was a monumental, historical event that, in my opinion, changed the mindset of so many, especially educators. Everyone was more sensitive when speaking about terrorism. I believe that in this age, terrorism is gun violence. In 2016, dozens of people were killed and injured at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, because of a gun. I was 11 and devastated. Disoriented, I concluded that guns were a threat.

In my 6th grade history class, our teacher meticulously planned out every lesson to ensure that we received every ounce of knowledge we could within the duration of our 48 minute class period. The day after the shooting was different, however. The class was organized differently, with all of the chairs against the back wall. We sat in an unconventional formation, and Mr. McGrath asked us if we knew what had happened. He exclaimed the severity of the event, his tone very irate yet very calm. He knew we were children, but that he could no longer shelter us from the inhumanity of events by painting them to be historic or antiquated; we were living in history. My 6th grade history teacher took a culturally responsive approach by teaching us about events in our own lifetime, which was not included in his job description. He went above and beyond, even postponing his lesson plans, because he wanted us to stay informed about ethical decisions and prejudice toward the LGBTQIA+ community. This information benefited all of our young minds because he got to us before the hatred for the LGBTQ+ community did.

Today’s education system is a lot different than it was 40 years ago. I’ve heard stories from my parents, and grandparents, about their school days. My father once told me he had an old school teacher who hit students with rulers; there was a time when even parents encouraged physical discipline in the classroom. Thinking about 50 years ago seems so black and white. The education system has evolved so drastically since then.

In some households, there is stigma around being part of the LGBTQ+ community, with a surge of ignorance from parents toward gender expression and identity. Disagree does not mean disrespect. I do not know if this is in effect, but it’d be conducive to everyone if teachers were trained about gender expression, sexuality, and gender identity. They’d know how ask for and respect a student’s preferred pronouns (she/her, they/them, he/his) and name.

Teachers need to understand that curriculum is not the only way to teach. Real world events and problems are what teach us, giving us the experience needed to teach our successors. Culturally responsive approaches can be found within current events. The point of life is to learn from experience. None of us have experienced history, but we watch new historical occurrences every single day. Politics can teach us about civics and ethics. Our methods of transportation can teach us how to deal with climate change.

Culturally responsive teaching involves learning life lessons in the classroom. I don’t think I’m ever going to use the equation for finding the area of a triangle, but it will definitely be helpful to learn about misgendering and proper pronoun usage. These things benefit the students and teachers; they learn from each other.