Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Foundations of American Democracy, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Political Participation, Professional Development

My favorite podcasts for AP Government

I absolutely love podcasts! I can listen while I’m driving or out for a walk. I love having my students listen to them as well. I often assign them outside of class, but sometimes we will listen to them if they are short and meaningful. It’s also helpful for my auditory learners or for students that just need a bit of extra information to really “get it”. The green are ones I listen to in class or assign for extra knowledge on a subject! The red are for my own personal knowledge and growth. 

Here are my favorite podcasts for AP Government!

  • Constitutional– I use this one in class and for my personal knowledge.
  • We the People– I have to admit, I love Jeffrey Rosen. And when he followed me on Twitter one day, I about died. THIS is a podcast I have my students listen to because it presents both sides from a scholarly view point. It has been especially amazing for the redesign. I highly recommend this! 
  • The Daily– I listen to this daily. Each day on my way to work. Like clockwork. 
  • Teaching American History– with titles such as “How to Read Federalist #10” , many AP teachers jump for joy. Let’s be honest, we all need to brush up on some of our document knowledge. This is a great resource for teachers who don’t want to be caught unaware! 
  • More Perfect I love using this in class. More specifically, they have a great one on Citizen’s United which can be used with my lesson on the required case. There are 3 seasons and I’ve found they are easy listening. 
  • PBS News Hour- quick, easy, informative, and part of my Alexa morning routine. 
  • Ain’t No Free Lunch– I met Danielle at my Street Law summer and really loved listening to her talk. Her and her friend, Taikein look at current/past issues. I appreciate hearing different points of view because it makes me a better teacher and better citizen. Plus, I am working on expanding my resources so that all students feel represented. And my students love the back and forth. 
  • Slow Burn– Nixon’s Watergate. Clinton’s impeachment. So enthralling and something I listen to so I can strengthen my history knowledge. 
  • Up First– The news from NPR in 10 minutes. I recommend to students who want to listen to the news and keep up. They can listen to it on the way to school or work. 
  • The Wilderness– I started to listen to Pod Save America awhile ago on the recommendation of a friend, but soon found it to be not up my alley. I decided to give this a try because of it’s look at what happened to the Democratic Party in the 2016 and what they need to change. It’s like an autopsy and it’s refreshingly honest. This is a podcast I listen to for my own personal knowledge.  From the website: “The Wilderness is a documentary from Crooked Media and Two-Up about the history and future of the Democratic Party. Pod Save America’s Jon Favreau tells the story of a party finding its way out of the political wilderness through conversations with strategists, historians, policy experts, organizers, and voters. In fifteen chapters, the series explores issues like inequality, race, immigration, sexism, foreign policy, media strategy, and how Democrats can build a winning majority that lasts.”

 


Tell me, what are your favorite podcasts and how do you use them?

Interactions Among Branches of Government, Professional Development

Pacificus and Helvidius– or Why Hamilton and Madison broke up.

This year, I’ve had the pleasure of being on the Bill of Rights Teacher Council. It’s a fun gig and I highly recommend working with this organization.

With that being said, I was able to attend a colloquium on Liberty and Executive Power. The group of teachers was amazing and I had such a great time. The best part is, I learned SO MUCH!

I never really knew what made Madison and Hamilton “break up”. I always just brushed over it and figured Jefferson somehow convinced Madison to become a Democratic Republican and they all lived politically ever after.

Enter Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation, April 22, 1793.

Madison was a member of the House at this time, and Hamilton was Treasury Secretary so we can see how this will start out.

To start with this, we will look at the powers vested in the Executive, as well as enumerated in the Legislative. After we have a good read on that, we look at the Neutrality Proclamation and ask “Can he do that? Where does the power to declare neutrality lie?” (Spoiler alert: there’s no straight answer yet)

*Please note that I’ve already gone over Federalist 70 with students and will be asking them to refer back to it

Then, I’ll ask the following {straight from my reader} to keep students focused during their research time:

Does the general grant of executive power in Article II imply more than the enumerated powers that follow in the article? Are Congress’s powers to declare war and its participation in the making of treaties simply exceptions out of the general executive power vested in the President? How does the enumeration of powers in Article II differ from Article I?

The most important part of this is not telling students who did the writing. One group will get Pacificus and the other will get Helvidius. You can use the excerpts from TAH.org and break up the pieces of it. I’ll be honest, Hamilton is WORDY, but what he says matters. Personally, I like reading Madison because he’s much more organized.

This can be done at home or in class, depending on what works best for your class.

And magically, this can turn into argumentative writing!

Defend or refute the claim that the Executive has the power to declare neutrality. Use evidence from the documents to back your thesis. 

What made this so great for me was that I was an actual participant in the learning. I had never read these pieces before, so becoming the student made it more meaningful for me.

The Bill of Rights Institute updates their seminars here and I strongly urge you to check them out AND to take a look the Founder’s Fellowship for next year once it comes out. To keep updated sign up for the Bill of Rights Newsletter here! Don’t miss out!

Political Participation, Projects

Keeping Interest Group Interesting

As you know, I only get a semester to teach AP Government and that requires me to get a little creative when I want to make sure that students “get it”.

Enter the Interest Group Project. I introduced the project on a Thursday and made it due the next week on their block day {Wednesday/Thursday} with limited in class work time.

I like to sometimes give more creative licensing to my students. I don’t care about the format, I care about the content. This is why I didn’t put specifications on having to use PowerPoint, although most did just that or used Google Slides. Just follow the rubric. I also didn’t give them a list of interest groups because I want THEM to do some research! Per usual, they did incredibly well and I was so interested to learn about each group!

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This was the AARP group. They took it up a notch with dressing up! 

Here is a student example from the AARP. {posted with student permission}

What I will change for next time:

  • I want to add a portion of how they use high tech media to get their (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc)
  • I didn’t teach them anything about interest groups yet, because I wanted them to do this FIRST and then be able to tie it all in. I liked this, but I think I’ll try it the other way to see if it works just as good.

What I REALLY LIKED:

  • Letting them be in charge of their own learning because inevitably they chose groups they had an “interest” in researching {pun intended}
  • Giving space to research without giving too many guidelines
  • Being flexible with the guidelines
  • Requiring that most work be done outside of class since they had a choice of groups or to do the work individually.
  • They turned NOTHING in. It was all a presentation grade. I LOATHE papers everywhere, so this suited me nicely

If you try this project, let me know how it goes!

 

American Political Ideologies and Beliefs, Political Participation, Writing for AP Gov

Discussing Citizens United

Oh campaign finance.

The wonderful world.

{take a deep breath and continues to pretend it’s super fun!}

money

*I take 2 regular and 1 block day for this.

On Friday, I assigned Citizens United v. FEC. They are not writing the DBQ, but using the documents (including Federalist 10) to prepare for a Socratic discussion on their block day (Wednesday/Thursday).  This is out of classwork and I like giving them a weekend to look over it and ask questions if needed on Monday during the lecture.

On Monday, I give notes on Elections and Campaign Finance. I use Edward’s 2016 Presidential Election Edition for notes, or find some via a group, friend, or other teacher. Because the notes I use are from a group, I don’t share them here since they are not mine to share.

On Tuesday, we use Bill of Rights Institute Homework Help video as well as Money Unlimited from a 2012 issue of the New Yorker and a campaign finance cheat sheet. Students are instructed to ‘draw’ campaign finance reform as a map and prepare for their Socratic discussion. I generally walk around during this time to ensure everyone “has it”.

The day of their Socratic discussion I write the question up on the board so students have a focus: Assess whether the Supreme Court ruled correctly in Citizens United v. FEC in light of constitutional principles including republican government and freedom of speech. 

How I run Socratic:

  1. Students are familiar with how Socratic Seminar- How am I graded_. Often times students get stuck with how many times they need to talk. I care about what they say, not how many times they talk. Noting that, taking up too much of the discussion gets you points taken away. For some classes, I give them 3 sticky notes. Once those are gone, they are gone. It also helps them to regulate who hasn’t been able to speak yet with a visual that doesn’t disturb the discussion.
  2. Because I have larger classes, I do the inside-outside circle. Each group gets 2 sets of 15 minutes. Students in the outside circle are listening and filling out Socratic Seminar Observations They can use them when they are in the inside circle. Below are examples from my 8th grade class.

Group A goes first on the inside for 15 minutes while Group B writes. Then they switch, but this time Group B goes for 30 minutes while Group A writes. The final switch happens and Group A is given their remaining 15 minutes. These times can be readjusted to fit your class period. This works well for two topic Socratics (Federalist/AntiFederalist). I change it up depending on the class.

You can also use an argumentative writing rubric and give points based on that. I record my observations using Socratic Seminar Observations. I can change up what I’m grading them on easily. This is the one I use most often.

At this point, after the discussion, you can have them do a piece of writing using the focus question. I love writing after a Lecture-Reading-Discussion train because they really have the ability to look at it from all angle and engage with the material.

If you have time and a class that this would work for, watch “The Kid is All Right“. This Simpson’s episode. It’s a quick 20 minutes and the kids always get a kick out of it because they actually get it after learning about political parties, interest groups, campaigns, and campaign finance. I bought the copy on YouTube for $2 and have shown it each semester.

simpsons.jpg

Interactions Among Branches of Government, Professional Development, Writing for AP Gov

The American Presidency

On August 28, I had the pleasure of attending a Teaching American History Seminar on Executive Powers. I always appreciate going to these because it opens my eyes to new documents to use. (Full Document of Readings)

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These were the readings we were required to complete beforehand. I appreciated this because it forced me to look at documents I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Documents I will use in my AP class:

  • Federalist 70
  • FDR “Fireside Chat Reorganizing the Judiciary” *I will use this to bridge between the Presidency and the Judiciary
  • War Powers Resolution and Nixon’s Veto

I actually came back to school the next day and was just starting the executive powers. This was a great way to start off the roles and powers of the executive. The students read through the War Powers Resolution the day I was gone, and came back and read Nixon’s Veto with me. We had a brief discussion on what the president’s power was and how this evolved through the 20th century to dealing with ideologies as opposed to just countries.

I decided to use these documents for an argumentative essay. I plan to have a Socratic seminar first to really allow students to develop their ideas. I don’t plan to give them the prompt per se, but I will let them know they need to make sure they reference these documents. I often take for granted that my students need help to really develop ideas.  find I get much better writing when

Prompt: Using your knowledge of the War Powers Resolution and Nixon’s Veto, develop an argument that explains the Constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution as it relates to the roles of the Executive and Legislative branches.

In your essay you must:

  • Articulate a defensible claim or thesis that responds to the prompt and establishes a line of reasoning.
  • Support your claim with at least TWO pieces of accurate and relevant information
    • At least ONE piece of evidence must be from one of the following foundational documents:
      • US Constitution
      • Federalist 51
      • Federalist 70
    • Use a second piece of evidence from another foundation document from the list or from your study of the Constitution.
  • Use reasoning to explain why your evidence supports your claim/thesis.
  • Respond to an opposing or alternative perspective using refutation, concession, or rebuttal.

I really enjoy these seminars because it requires me to learn more about the documents and it gives me more insight for my class. I can’t even count how many I’ve been to at this point!

TAH has webinars and explores Documents in Detail. I use these to help my students but also to make me a better teacher!

This year, I will focus on the following:

  • Federalist and Antifederalist (Saturday webinar- September 8)
  • Brutus I (October 24)

There are many others both upcoming and past that are super helpful for our class! Registration is free, and even if you can’t make the time, they will send you a copy of it. There is a podcast as well! Just search Teaching American History.

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You just have to love PD that you can turn around to use in your classroom immediately!

Assessment, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Professional Development

Moot Court Assessments…Beyond Multiple Choice

After I attended the Street Law Institute in 2016, I started to really look at how I assessed my AP Gov kids. Sure, multiple choice is important, as is learning to write FRQ’s but I wanted to really assess what they learned in my class.

Enter Moot Court and changing the way I look at AP.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely use multiple choice and writing for assessing. However, I struggled with giving a final exam that didn’t really match what I wanted to see. I wanted to see the application of the knowledge.

This will be my 3rd year doing it, and I’m already excited for it!

First, I pass out the Supreme Court Mock Trials instructions. I use current cases that I get from Street Law. Last year, we used Carpenter v. USNIFLA v. Becerra, and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. I liked being able to use them in conjunction with the oral arguments because of the news stories in current times. It got the students more involved! Even though the sheet requires the lawyers to write a paper, I let them know it’s more of notes for their oral essay in front of the Court. They don’t actually turn anything in.

I give students a choice as to their role. It has worked out in the past because you have students who do not want to speak, but like the social media aspect. You have students that try new things. {I used this letter for my re-certification for National Boards and it still get me every time. As teachers, we wield a power greater than anything, the power to get kids to believe in themselves}

Throughout the course of the time I allot for this project, we listen to oral arguments {yes, we listen to the full oral argument}. I use oyez.org because as we listen, student can read the transcript and see who is talking. We watch news clips that students find. We immerse ourselves in that world and it covers everything we learned. We look at the Constitution, at the amicus briefs submitted by interest groups, and precedent cases. Each year is a bit different as each class is a bit different.

The day of is always the best. I require students to dress up for Court. I take this very seriously. We do it on a block day to allow for full time. Here is the breakdown of the roles:

Chief Justice: This person runs the show. Just like Chief Justice John Roberts, they are in charge of the introduction, the timing, and reigning in any issues. They also get to use the gavel that I got from the Supreme Court.

Justices: Are responsible for asking questions, knowing their stuff, and making sure the lawyers do too.

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The lawyer present their case in front of the Court. They have to be ready for anything, and after listening to the actual oral arguments, they are. This is the only role that does not require a written paper to be turned in because they are essentially giving an oral essay foe 20-30 minutes. Here is an example of what a lawyer wrote up to start off their case.

Lastly, we have the clerks. There are students who don’t want to speak but still want to be involved. The clerks write a paper, but they also live Tweet during the case. We use our class hashtag as well as #scotusintheclassroom to it’s easy for me to find the information. If you don’t use Twitter, it’s easy to adapt this to writing articles for newspapers. One year, I had a conservative media and liberal media. We had discussed the biases each media had on the particular case and it was their chance to apply it.

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This is my TweetDeck that I keep open during oral arguments for easy grading
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We invited our Accelerated Middle School to witness Carpenter v. US

First semester, we have the luxury of doing two because we have more time. Second semester, with the AP test, means we can only fit in one. This is the primary reason I do Civil Liberties and Civil Rights last in my units.

I have also done this with my on-level classes and my accelerated 8th grade class!

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This year NIFLA v. Becerra, lawyers presenting their case.
American Political Ideologies and Beliefs, Foundations of American Democracy, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Writing for AP Gov

For Whom The Bell Tolls- John McCain

John McCain has been the Arizona senator since I have lived in the great state of Arizona. Senator McCain is one of my favorite people, not only because he has had a cameo on Parks and Recreation, or that he’s a hero in my eyes, but because he is one of the people in Congress that I truly admire. His ability to have and maintain friendships across the aisle, his humility and ability to say he’s imperfect, and his dedication to his county is second to none.

I encourage you to watch For Whom The Bell Tolls on HBO. It shows an age of politics that is slowly becoming extinct. This is evident in his speech to the Senate on July 25. John McCain gave his life for the service of this country. In my eyes, he is a true American hero.

My AP class is wrapping up Congress and as an Arizona citizen and teacher, I felt that closing it with the speech is the best tribute to our Senator. The prompt I wrote is also a good lead into the Presidency.

This speech is incredible, and it fits in with so many of our standards and a FRQ practice fits in nicely.

1. Argumentative Essay Prompt:

Senator John McCain addressed a full Senate in July of 2017. Some have compared this speech to Washington’s Farewell address. Defend or refute the statement that John McCain’s speech to the Senate was the modern day Farewell Address. (John McCain read Washington’s Farewell Address to the Senate on February 16, 1987 in a tradition that is carried out each year by a different Senator)

Use the following documents:

  • Washington’s Farewell Address
  • Federalist 10
  • US Constitution
  • Article 1, Section 8

** I am giving my students Washington’s Farewell Address and McCain’s Speech.

2. Writing prompt: Using Senator McCain’s speech, find examples of the following:

  • Checks and Balances
  • Separation of Powers (Federalist 51)
  • Roles of the Senate (Constitution)

Thank you, Senator McCain for your dedication to our state and our country.

Interactions Among Branches of Government, Writing for AP Gov

Argumentative Writing for AP Gov- Thesis Statements

*Cartoon from Cagle Cartoons

When I found out that a piece of the AP Government test would be argumentative writing, I was stoked! For the last three years, our school has had argumentative writing as a school goal so I figured, “I don’t even have to spend time teaching this!”

Oh, Liz. Oh, sweet, naive Liz.

I gave an argumentative prompt for Unit One, feeling confident because of the massive document diving we’ve done. I had students peer score to help get use to the FRQ #4 Rubric I received from Dan Devitt at my APSI this summer. I often like to use peer scoring and teacher grading so that students feel comfortable with the rubric and understanding exactly what was expected of them. After grading essays, I saw a HUGE issue. The thesis that students were writing were NOT defensible. The evidence they used was mere quoting. The analysis demanded more. Back to the drawing board we go.

I always tell my students I am training them for a marathon and we don’t need to run the whole thing right now. We need to work on a 5k. I need to take that advice.

I realized that in order for the essay as a whole to be legit, a great thesis was needed. Now, when I taught APUSH {for one year because wow! I bow down to all APUSH teachers} we did a 2-1-1 for our thesis statements and it worked out. So, I needed to develop a formula for AP Government and in particular, for my students who seem to struggle. First, I developed a prewriting for the thesis:

  • Restate the prompt:
  • Choose a side:
  • Tell me why:
  • What is the other side’s claim?
  • Why is yours better?

For example:

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Congressional term limits were a topic, similar to term limits imposed on the office of the president by the 22nd amendment. Develop an argument for or against an amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress.

I don’t have documents (Federalist 53  and 57 would come to mind because we want founding documents) BECAUSE, I want students to write a thesis that can be defended.

  • Restate the prompt: An amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress
  • Choose a side: is directly opposed to the ideas of the Constitution. 
  • Tell me why: because there were no term limits written into the Constitution for any of the three branches and it would take the rights away from the voter’s to choose who they want to represent them.  
  • What is the other side’s claim? Although many critics believe that Congress is corrupt and needs term limits to bring it back to the people, 
  • Why is yours better? the people, according to James Madison, need to be vigilant. This means that the government should not have the power to impose limits on terms of Congress. 

This may or may not work for your class, but I know that for me, I had to be more specific. If you don’t have a good thesis, you don’t have a good essay. End of story.

From now on, I will require all socratic discussions to start with this formula. It’s a small thing, but ends with big results!

I plan to build using evidence during the Presidency, and analysis during the Judiciary which all happen within the next few weeks. The ultimate goal is by my Civil Rights and Liberties Unit (which I do last) is to have 90% of students writing the argumentative essay at at least a 4/6. Lofty? Maybe. Not enough? Probably. But, with the redesign and the shift in mindset away from teaching contentcontentcontent and more application, I think it’s a reasonable goal that will evolve as we move through our semester.

What is your favorite way to teach argumentative essay?

 

Foundations of American Democracy

Reflecting on “Document Week”

Document Week 2018 has come to an end.

My students killed it. I am so impressed. I am also so tired! We all became best friends with the trifecta we worked with, even if some students were reluctant at first.

We capped off the week with Federalist_No._51 excerpts, and will begin next week with a comparison of a quote from Brutus 2 and Federalist 51 (listed on page 3).

A few things students noted:

  1. It was helpful for me to go over annotations AFTER they had a chance to read it. Since I already showed them how to annotate with the DeclarationofIndependence(which many were familiar with), they wanted to do it themselves and then have me review the document.
  2. They liked the progression of the documents because they saw the cause and effect.
  3. They appreciated being able to come back with questions. I did have them complete a Summary (3) on Federalist 10, but I made it due the next day at the END of class so they could ask clarifying questions.

 

The ultimate goal at the end of the week

Things I liked:

  1. I liked giving them a focus each day. Example, for Fed 10, I wanted them to focus on Madison’s response to Brutus and the superiority of a large republic in controlling factions (CON-1.A.1)
  2. I really liked working through the documents with them and seeing the moments of realization.
  3. I appreciated the fluid state of the week. I know where I wanted to end by Friday and it gave me more license to work to get the students to really get the messages. You can see how I progressed via my online lesson plan book.

Things I will change or look more closely at:

  1. Next semester, I will do a bit more of a background on the Federalist and Anti-federalists as homework instead of using class time.
  2. I want to develop a reader that goes along with Brutus I to help the students through the document.
  3. I also want to develop a “Call and Response” to help students compare Brutus I and Federalist 10. {Basically give a Brutus argument and then what Madison’s response was}
  4. I want to have enough time to do a Socratic seminar and really allow them to ask questions and work through it in a bigger group.
  5. I am going to make a reader for this unit with focus questions {stay tuned} so that we can have the above mentioned Socratic and I can assess them on their knowledge this way.

 

*As a post script, I was absolutely blown away by the response to my post about Brutus I. I love the collaborative nature of teaching and the ability to share everything and have great discussions. If there is anything you’d like to see from this blog or specific questions you may have, please feel free to comment or contact me! 

 

American Political Ideologies and Beliefs, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Separation of Church and State

I just returned from my APSI in San Diego and got a lot of great ideas, as well as planned 2.5 units out. I teach a semester class, so using my time wisely is key. My lessons are viewable to the general public, so if you are a newbie who isn’t sure how to break it apart, you are more than welcome to see what I do. It changes, but it’s a rough sketch.

PS San Diego is not the worst place in the world to go to an APSI.

Lord, help me on this one.

The separation of church and state is not explicitly written in the Constitution. It’s one of the things that drives me insane when I see  or hear this as an argument. And inevitably, it comes up in class.

My favorite response? “Please back that claim using the Constitution as your source.” I say it as plainly as possible, because this is a teachable moment.

Crickets.

*Looks at fingernails, waiting for something that will never come. Because you need more than the First Amendment for this argument. 

That day (if I’m on my game) or the next, I hand the students this. It’s a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. It easy to read, accessible for most students, and contains “thus building a wall of separation between Church & State” in reference to the First Amendment.

For reference, the First Amendment (a popular argument) was ratified in 1791. I love this argument because the Free Exercise clause contradicts the Establishment clause. Well played, James, well played. I LOVE Constitutional arguments. I love them because I ALWAYS learn something from my students and the Constitution is up for interpretation!

Then come the inevitable questions.

“Our country was built on Christianity.” What? No. Oy.  I have yet to find a clear answer on this, but I like this essay. It’s a hard answer. AND THAT’S OK. History often doesn’t have definitive answers. That’s why it’s fun to study! When they say this, I ask them to find me proof. Or find me a source that refutes it. And then WE TALK ABOUT IT. I don’t know everything and I never pretend I do. Teach ME, students. (You’d be surprised)

Side note: Jefferson was never really outward about his religious beliefs, and Washington often referred to the Providence as opposed to an outright God.

“Why do we have to say Under God in the pledge?”  (You don’t actually have to. I cite West Virginia vs. Barnette– see you should know your rights!)

And a plethora of other questions. I like to challenge the students to find answers to their own questions. (Legit, y’all are on your phones all the time anyway. Why don’t you use it for something useful instead of watching your best friends’ SnapChat story about a class she should be paying attention in) This leads them to look at sources, find out new tidbits, and use their prior knowledge. In helping students to answer their own questions or find sources to further their curiosity, you capture a way to teach history that stays with students beyond your classroom. This is hard because students just want an answer.

You know what they want more? To best their teacher. Or to show their teacher that they have the answer that the teacher doesn’t (I love that one). Nothing makes me happier that being bested by a student. I leave my ego at the door because at the end of the day, I am not the all-knowing. Some days, I can’t remember if I drank all of my coffee or if it’s still sitting on my kitchen counter. I’m a human.

You may have students who hold deep religious beliefs. Good for them, it’s part of their political socialization! You may have atheists. Awesome! This is a hard topic because it can be polarizing and that is the last thing we want in our classrooms. We can facilitate conversations, model behaviors that are appropriate, and make sure the learning environment is safe for all. So, here are some resources:

Constitution Center Essays (don’t act surprised)

Podcast on the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their fight in the Supreme Court (I LOVE THIS PODCAST)