Huffington Post reporter Joy Resmovitz has written an article that addresses the ways that teachers across the country are contextualizing the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death for their students.
I think this article hits at a vital point that I want my blog to continually stress: teachers are responsible for how their students think. Also, your students should see you as an educated, informed authority who can voice a knowledgeable opinion. Of course, not every teacher feels comfortable expressing their opinions to a classroom full of adolescents, and that’s fine. Some things are best kept out of the classroom discussion.
But given these current events, there’s no doubt that teachers in the humanities feel the need to contextualize the death of Osama Bin Laden and its larger implications. Today in one of my classes, where we are studying cosmopolitan East Africa, the professor was able to relate Bin Laden’s ideologies and what he stood for to other things we’ve learned throughout the semester.
Personally, in an English classroom, there are a lot of different ways you can deal with current events. If it sounds like something students are really pressed to talk about, and they have questions, allow an open discussion. One of the best things a teacher can do is create a classroom where students feel comfortable expressing themselves and their unique ideas. They should be able to bounce their ideas off of each other–and you–and learn something from the process. After all, isn’t this how learning in the real world works? How often have we walked away from a discussion or debate with a new perspective and new outlook?
Of course, discussions can be implemented in the classroom in a variety of ways. You can do a whole-class discussion, or even split the students up into small groups if you think it would be useful to them. It also might be a good idea to have them journal on it, at the beginning or end of a class discussion. What do you guys think?
I’d also try to relate it back to course material, if at all possible. For example, in my East Africa class today, the discussion had me thinking about the fact that Osama Bin Laden was really the “face” behind a movement, more than just an evil person in and of himself. This could be comparable to other villains in texts that students have read. If you’re studying the Diary of Anne Frank, Night, or other Holocaust literature, this could be related back to Hitler. Ask the students to relate the event back to how Holocaust survivors might have reacted upon hearing about Hitler’s death. There isn’t any “right answer”–it’s just a great way to show students that they can connect what they’re learning in your classroom to their own lives and “the real world” (as they call it–haha).