Natural disasters, tragic events, the rise and fall of governments and regimes, the death of public figures (loved or hated) are all front-page news. In the years that I have been teaching I have dealt with all of these and more in my classroom. From a Tsunami to the death of a pope, from national elections to the tragedy of 9/11, all of these events have been, at one time or another, on the minds of my students. How then, do we as teachers deal with information we haven't even had the chance to process ourselves?
News reports come fast and furious. Information in a 24-hour news cycle often isn't confirmed before it is reported, yet it is there. These stories that have yet to be told are on the minds of our students and on teachers' minds as well. Yesterday we heard the sad news that The Honourable Jack Layton has died. The funeral is being planned, citizens gathered last night to mourn, and if I were going into the classroom today (we're still on summer break here), I'm certain it would be on the minds of my students. If school is going to be relevant to students, then these events need to be discussed in the classroom. The purpose of this discussion isn't to tell students what or how to think about these events, it is to help them to think critically, to ask questions. My objective as a teacher is to have students leave my classroom with more questions than answers and with the opportunity to form their own opinions and ideas about the subject. For the rest of this article, I will use this example, but the model would work for any event of importance to your students and your community.