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Pop Quiz: How to talk to students about tragedy


I don’t know about you, but I’m still reeling from the horrible attacks at the finish line of the Boston Marathon this week. I’ve seen the words of Mister Rogers, a childhood icon of mine, go viral.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

Just the day before these attacks, I was talking with some of my science teacher friends about how they dealt with 9/11 the morning of the attacks. Most teachers they worked with let the periods be open for discussion. At the time I was in college, and there was a brief mention of it before every class the next day. (I skipped classes the day of.) Because I had been personally affected, that didn’t go well for me, but I think it helped a lot of people to at least have it acknowledged and begin the discussion.

How do you deal with difficult national tragedies in your classroom? Do you address it at all? Does it depend on what subject matter/grade you are teaching? What the heck can you even say to your students in the face of something so awful?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.

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Nicole is a professor, astronomer, educator, geek, dog mom, occasional fitness nerd, and maker of tiny comets. She is also very loud under the right circumstances. Like what you read? Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/noisyastronomer

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