Teaching In the Shadow of Violence: Resources for Teachers in the Wake of Gun Tragedies


Teaching In the Shadow of Violence: Resources for Teachers in the Wake of Gun Tragedies

The recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, reaches into our learning spaces in at least three ways: (1) as a singular tragic event that may be weighing on students intensely right now, (2) as one episode in an ongoing national story of gun violence that may serve to deepen students’ anxieties about safety in their schools, and (3) as a rallying point 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 this tragedy and its 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 has rarely gotten the attention that the Parkland tragedy has gotten. 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.

There are also some resources out there specifically tailored to the Parkland tragedy. On Twitter, the hashtag #parklandsyllabus has become a repository for teaching ideas (texts, concepts, etc.) to address this topic. And this article in the New York Times compiles a number of ideas that, though aimed at K-12 teachers, could work in a college course as well.

If we at CNDLS can be helpful as you consider these issues and questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at cndls@georgetown.edu. 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, now and perhaps in the future.