Be a Guardian of Democracy: Strategies for Current and Controversial Issue Discussions

by Sue Khalaieff, Democracy Schools Network Manager
The second session of the Civics Across the Curriculum webinar series was held on Thursday, January 7, 2021. This year’s theme builds on the theme from the originally scheduled Democracy Schools Network Spring 2020 convening, “Every Teacher is a Civics Teacher: Best Practices for Civic Learning and Organizational Supports.” View a recording of the session.

The program featured Alia Blumlein, Prairie Ridge High School Social Studies Instructor, and Tracy Freeman, Normal West High School Social Studies Department Chair. It was facilitated by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist, Illinois Civic Mission Coalition. 

The presenters spoke about their experience with the Guardians of Democracy online course in Current and Controversial Issue Discussions and how their professional practice has been enhanced as a result of it. Specifically, both noted these advantages: having a reliable, steady pool of resources to utilize, being a part a network of educators who are committed to improving this aspect of civics instruction for themselves, and having access to a nurturing space to contemplate new approaches and strategies. Presenters and attendees also explored the intersection of media literacy and civics, specific strategies and resources for navigating particularly difficult conversations, and the power and nuance of language and images as teaching tools. 

Because of the timing of the session, and the events of the previous day (January 6), participants were invited to speak about their experiences with supporting their students at this stressful time, as teachers themselves were trying to make sense of what happened in Washington on this momentous day. Teachers shared stories, strategies and significant moments in their classrooms; all concurred that this was a day that they listened very intently to their students, as they gently guided them in considering the critical issues that were raised by this shocking event.

Resources underlining the themes that emerged from our conversation:

Resources from IllinoisCivics.org

We look forward to our continuing series on the first and third Thursday of the month from 4-5 pm on Zoom. Hope to see you at future Civics Across the Curriculum webinars.

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