The #worldgeochat LOVES when we have the opportunity for guest hosts to come by on a Tuesday night and run the show. It gives us a chance to step back and really dig into the Twitter feed and engage with all the awesomeness that transpires. The only problem I have is that I often fall so far behind the feed because when @Newsela hosts the party gets lit!
The friendly banter began just before 9pm and I’m pretty sure someone asked me if I had my scotch ready for questions about Google Earth…. Puhleeaaaazzzz…. Of course I did. Newsela asked the first question right on time at 9:06 with:
How are we, as educators, and our students, as kids, processing the latest news? This is a fundamental question. It doesn’t ask us if we agree or disagree, or whether we believe the news we are consuming is real or fake. It asks us how we are dealing with the constant barrage, the constantly shifting perspectives and multitudes of conflicting narratives. The questions speaks to the reality that we as humans consume media whether we want to or not. It is part of our DNA to seek out understanding and information to explain the world around us and how we fit into it. Here’s what some of #worldgeochat had to say about it:
Eric Falls (@eric_falls) made me take my first sip of the evening (earlier than usual) by posting:
Yup! I like how he mentioned that connecting the events going on today as being part of a historical narrative. They all fit together. Nothing is happening in a vacuum. Also, using a mapping platform such as Google Earth can help students build context. Context is essential to understand an issue from multiple perspectives and using Google Earth is awesome for teachers to use in the classroom.
I really liked what Ben Lewis said about not being afraid to engage in the discussion, something that many teachers shy away from:
It is so true that 11 year olds can be some of the most insightful and deep thinkers on the planet, if only we give them a chance to be taken seriously by adults. I;ve often said that one of the biggest problems in middle schools is that kids are desperate for an adult, literally any adult other than their parents, to take them seriously. When we allow their voice to lead the conversation (with appropriate guidance from the teacher) then wonderful, powerful learning takes place. The problem with not shying away from having difficult conversations in class is that kids are far too often so sheltered from the outside world, either by their parents, community, circumstances or self imposed, is that when the bubble on their protected world is popped they can be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of awfulness that exists.
It’s our job as educators to acknowledge that ugliness exists but also that there is a reason to understand it so that we can begin to take action and enact change and also, more importantly, it’s not all doom and gloom. There is positivity and hope in the world (thanks @SamMandeville )
All in all many teachers in the chat are struggling with how to deal with the latest news and also feel some hopelessness. We have to pick each other up and be the light for our students. The biggest skill I try to get across to students was always empathy. When we look at the world through the eyes of the people living through these events, not as outside observes, then we can understand what it means to take action and push for meaningful change.
It’s not easy. It’s never been easy. It will never be easy. But we have to keep trying.
It felt a little bit like the chat started a bit on a down note because of the topic of the latest news but in reality it was a perfect segue into the second question of the night:
Students ALWAYS have questions. They might not always be relevant or interesting questions but I try to remember a quote from a former colleague who once said that “Whatever a student is giving you right now is 100% of what they can give.” It’s a good reminder that kids do not often have the skills to develop question beyond the initial “What’s up with that?” line of questioning. Again, it is our responsibility to help them unpack that first question and develop deeper, more nuanced lines of inquiry. It’s important to note here that student question will differ greatly depending on where they live.
One thing that @SamMandeville brought up struck a chord with me:
It wasn’t that she was specifically referring to the refugee crisis anymore but it pointed out that our 24 hour news cycle is build on getting people to watch whatever the “next big thing’ is. From refugees in Syria, to travel bans, to investigations into our political election from last year, to Hurricane Harvey, to Hurricane Irma, to Hurricane Maria, to North Korea, to earthquakes in Mexico, to ……… the sheer volume of “the next big thing” allows our collective memory to get shorter and shorter. How do teachers combat this problem? How to we get students to ask questions that may seem “so last month” but as still prescient? This issue is combined with another big question that students have thanks to this tweet from @cheffernan75:
If adults can’t seem to be able to have a discussion in a principled and measured tone, then how can we expect students to do it? Once again, it is the responsibility of the teacher to lead this charge. I started noticing a theme at this point in the chat. It seems to me that all of these societal issues fall on the shoulders of teacher to fix for the next generation to stand a fighting chance of peace.
If the teachers around the country are anything like the ones I know from #worldgeochat, then we are going to be O.K.