Teaching In the Shadow of Violence: Resources for Teachers in the Wake of Gun Tragedies
In this country we face news of gun violence with brutal frequency, including attacks that target marginalized communities (communities that many of our students identify with) and attacks that target schools (and of course all of our students must identify with schools). These terrible tragedies reach into our learning spaces in at least three ways: (1) as singular tragic events that may be weighing on students intensely in the aftermath, (2) as episodes in an ongoing national story of gun violence that may serve to deepen students’ anxieties about safety in their schools and communities, and (3) as rallying points that some students will be experiencing as a call to action. As educators, we need to enter our learning spaces thoughtful about all of the above.
Part of our response necessarily involves care, in the sense of being proactive about student well-being, and alert to manifestations of students’ emotional reactions. Our Teaching Commons page on Teaching Well-Being offers strategies and ideas for how to engage students as whole people and also provides a list of campus safety net resources.
It’s also quite possible that these tragedies and their surrounding issues will provoke charged and volatile conversations in your courses. Our Difficult Discussions Teaching Commons page can help you prepare for and navigate those conversations successfully.
Our page on Inclusive Pedagogy is also relevant here. Gun violence in communities of color and low-income communities rarely gets the attention that shootings in affluent and/or white communities get. That fact may be in students’ thoughts as well.
Another question is how students’ need to take action might intersect with your courses. Do your policies allow student absences for things like walk-outs or other activism? How do you strike a balance between academic goals and making space for students to pursue their larger values? Are there, in fact, meaningful ways to connect the pursuit of those values to your course content? At Georgetown, of course, we emphasize care of the whole student, which in some cases means directly taking on the matters that weigh on students’ minds and hearts.
Georgetown is, of course, not the only source of resources on teaching about (and in the context of) gun violence:
- Greater Good. Nine Ways to Help Students Discuss Guns and Violence.
- National Council for the Social Studies. Teaching Resources about Gun Violence.
- National Council of Teachers of English. Intersection of Race and Guns in Schools: Resources for Teaching in These Times.
- New York Times. The Power to Change the World: A Teaching Unit on Student Activism in History and Today.
- Teaching Tolerance. Gun Violence in Schools.
- Teaching Tolerance. Responding to the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting.
If we at CNDLS can be helpful as you consider these issues and questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re available for individual consultations as well as workshops for your department or program. In the meantime, we hope the above resources give you some support as you teach in the wake of tragedy.