Spaces like this one are very helpful for me,” wrote one veteran social studies teacher about our May convening, “Race, Class and Elections: Teaching Politics in a Polarized Time.”

Indeed, as part of our efforts to support schools and educators, UVEI creates spaces in which educators can connect around topics of interest, learning from each others’ experiences. The May convening on teaching politics was the second of two online gatherings that we hosted this spring; the first, in April, was focused on teaching about climate justice.

Educators from across VT and NH were in attendance at both gatherings, as well as UVEI board members and representatives from organizations doing related work in our schools, including Building Fearless Futures, Regeneration Corps, Moon and Stars, and Up for Learning. Alumni and current enrollees in UVEI programs – teaching, school leadership, and literacy – joined the dialogue and provided valuable reflections.

…we will be able to approach those challenges with fortitude and creativity if we continue to learn from and with each other along the way!

Our main goal with such events is to connect educators to each other – because this work is harder to do in isolation – and to share resources that help us meet needs of our students and school communities. At the end of each gathering, we asked what resources and strategies participants were seeking. “I am interested,” wrote one elementary school teacher, “ in anything that allows a student to share their viewpoint in a thoughtful way around tricky issues such as the upcoming presidential election, immigration, etc. However, I want students with other viewpoints to also be thoughtful and respectful as well.

Another participant, a school administrator, said, “I could use more discussion prompts and activities for advisory to support healthy discussion.” And a VT curriculum director wrote, “I could use some more ideas on how to support teachers with being confident to lean in on controversial issues.” We hear this and we agree! These needs for resources for discussions of challenging topics will continue to inform our licensure programs, our degree programs, and our networking events.

After each convening, the contact information, notes, and resources were shared back out with the group so that the connections and networking can continue. We invite the UVEI network to stay tuned for additional opportunities this fall as we approach important local and national elections that will demand thoughtful approaches when we bring such topics into our adult learning spaces and our classrooms. As one participant told us, “I imagine that November (and the days leading up to it) are going to be challenging.” Yes, this is true – and we will be able to approach those challenges with fortitude and creativity if we continue to learn from and with each other along the way!

 

Elijah Hawkes is the Director for School Leadership at UVEI and is a former school principal. He led UVEI’s Strong Schools dialogue series two years ago, and has also written extensively on schools, communities, and trust in light of current events.