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Kids & The Violence in DC: Q & A with Marissa of Marissa Teachable Moments

1. Since last week’s events in the US Capitol weren’t "just another violent protest” - this was an unprecedented assault on the basic values of this country - Where do you begin explaining the events of last week to kids?

MarissaTeachableMoments(MTM): Before explaining, I think we can start by listening. Asking "what did you notice" will give parents and teachers an idea of where children are in terms of making sense of last week's events. Then, we can respond in ways that are developmentally appropriate.

2. What are some of the teachable moments for children?

MTM: I think there are several teachable moments. One that comes to mind is, how can we express our thoughts and opinions when something doesn't go our way. Some books that come to mind to support this work are Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights and What Can a Citizen Do? Additionally, Grace for President is a good book to discuss the election process.

3. If kids weren’t watching it live, they’ve no doubt seen video since. How do we help them process what they saw?

MTM: Creating space for emotions is always important, especially when witnessing something that can be traumatizing. Asking kids what they noticed and how they feel sound like such simple questions, but they can really open the door to deep conversations. Finally, it's important to help children navigate their emotions. When you feel upset, sad, angry, disappointed, etc., what might you do as an adult? Those same strategies can be shared with children.

4. What’s the best way to explain the different police responses to the BLM protests and the pro-Trump rally?

MTM: The teacher in me can see an activity where students create a Venn Diagram of the language used in the media to describe the BLM protests and the pro-Trump rally. Then, students can engage in a conversation about the differences they notice with the rhetoric. The same activity can be done while examining the police responses to these events. To scaffold for younger children, images can be used and they can describe what they notice. Then use that to spark a conversation.

5. Is it OK to reassure children that our country is safe, even if we’re not convinced that it is?

MTM: This reminds me of units of study that focus on community helpers. In many curriculums that I've seen, the units introduce various community helpers (firefighters, librarians, police officers, etc.) and teachers are supposed to communicate that these people help us and keep us safe. As an educator, this often presents a dilemma for me because not all community helpers keep all people safe, particularly in largely Black and Brown communities that have been historically underserved. In fact, time and time again we've seen situations where police officers, those meant to protect all people, in fact do a great deal of harm. So as a teacher, I was very careful about the language that I used. All that to say, my personal preference would be to share the reality of the situation while also sharing my hopes. If we're not convinced that our country is safe right now, then I think that's okay to share that. But we can also share what we hope will happen. Finally, communicate how we will know when things are beginning to shift.

6. We don’t want to overlook the historic election in Georgia last week as well. Can you help put that in perspective for children to understand the significance of those results?

MTM: Georgia's historic election was definitely overshadowed by last week's events. A conversation about voter suppression can be supported by Equality's Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America . When engaging in the discussion about the historic election, I think it's extremely important to highlight the work of Stacey Abrams.

Marissa McGee has spent her career in communities that have been historically underserved due to systemic inequities. She taught kindergarten, first, and second grade in Washington, D.C. for nearly a decade. She now serves as an instructional coach in Oakland, CA.


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