Georgia teachers create new lesson plans to comply with new law

(GA recorder) — Georgian students will soon be swapping their pencils and books for sunglasses and swimsuits after a busy school year. For teachers, the summer holidays are often a time for lesson planning and professional development.

Tiffany Fannin, a social studies teacher who works with special education students, will take additional training this summer to help her handle the kind of sensitive issues that are currently in the headlines and brains of lawmakers.

“I just want to make sure that I cover my standards in a way that isn’t going to alarm some parents and learn to present things in a factual way, but also learn to be able to present another side, if that’s possible. , for many issues that we face,” said Fannin, who asked reporters not to name the district where she teaches.

From the fall, history teachers will face a series of new laws past by the state legislature and signed by Governor Brian Kemp ostensibly aimed at getting politics out of the classroom.

The law that was born as House Bill 1084 bans teachers from discussing nine so-called divisive concepts, including that the United States is inherently racist, that a person should be discriminated against because of their race, or that an individual bears responsibility for wrongdoing by others other people of the same race.

“This ensures that the entire history of our state and our nation will be accurately taught,” Kemp said at a bill signing ceremony. “Because here in Georgia, our classrooms will not be the pawns of those who indoctrinate our children with their partisan political agendas.”

Many Georgian teachers resent the idea that they seek to indoctrinate students, but they fear overzealous parents will criticize their lessons for political reasons and put them in hot water.

A Forsyth County middle school teacher who asked that her name not be published for fear of reprisals said she feared her lessons on colonialism would come under scrutiny.

She said she teaches students about the effects on colonized peoples, including the loss of their freedoms and the erasure of their cultures and languages ​​and how this affects those populations today.

“If I relate it to how these people functioned throughout colonization and after that, and I relate it to today, many ramifications, like language loss and how people trying to bring them back, I’m sure someone in our community could say that I’m trying, under the guise of standards, to teach critical race theory,” she said. “However, this n is not the case. Whether I buy into that idea or not, I’m just helping kids understand cause and effect and long-term impact.

Critical race theory was once defined as an academic framework examining racism as a cultural force rather than an individual evil. It has become a catch-all for lessons that some white parents say cause their children to feel guilty by association for sins like slavery and Jim Crow.

At a committee meeting in February, Dawsonville Republican Rep. Will Wade, sponsor of HB 1084, said teachers won’t need to avoid difficult subjects as long as they don’t blame white kids. He told the committee of a time when his young daughter came home from school in tears after hearing Rosa Parks’ story.

“She said, ‘Why did the white people do that?’ and then she just started screaming,” Wade said. “She said, ‘Why do people hate each other, dad?’ My daughter, at that time, she was feeling anxious. My job as a parent is to embrace that child in that moment, to let him know what he’s doing, that he has a natural empathy for another human being. The teacher did nothing to tell her that she should feel this because of her race.

“The goal is to ensure that teachers are not, in their role as stewards of a class of children, to take what most people are going through at some point in their lives when they see the atrocities of the past,” he said. “That somehow, if you belong to this race, it is required of you that you feel angst, that you feel bad about yourself and who you are as a person because of from those atrocities of the past, that’s the difference, and I believe in Georgia, the educators, I believe they will understand the difference.

Whether parents understand the difference is another issue. Another bill supported by Kemp known as Parents’ Bill of Rights codifies the rights of parents, including the right to inspect school materials.

Fannin said a few parents had expressed concerns about her lessons during her career, but she was always able to reassure them by having a conversation and showing them her lesson plans. She said she was distressed by the perception that educators were doing no good, and she feared the new laws would make the parent-teacher relationship more hostile.

“In March 2020, we were considered heroes,” she said. “Teachers were seen as heroes as we pushed the kids through this whole COVID situation – we try to be positive and try to engage them online; but probably two or three weeks before the semester started in August, we were considered the bad guys, and we continue to be considered the bad guys because of this critical race theory that’s been put forward, as well as mandates masked. This really troubled me; how did we get past these wonderful guardians of student sanity in March, and in August we were demonized? »

She said she trusts her administrators to be fair if she’s accused of teaching inappropriate concepts, but she worries it won’t be the same across the state, especially for new teachers who have less experience to allay parents’ concerns.

The Forsyth Middle School teacher said she had less confidence in her administrators. She’s worried they’ll bow down to what she calls a vocal minority of parents to avoid further trouble, but she hopes her district will come up with good guidelines and follow them properly.

“I hope it’s followed with an open mind to actually hear what’s being said and with someone who can think critically about what’s being said and not just take it and make it disappear because that gives us look better,” she said. mentioned.

During the debate on the bills, critics said the scrutiny would prevent people from becoming teachers. The Forsyth teacher said she had considered other areas of work, but will be back in class in the fall with her fingers crossed that everything goes well.

“What keeps me coming back is working with students,” she said. “I have fun with them. And there’s only been a part of my time, during this year, in particular, where I’ve really had to think about my allegiances. But that’s for the students. that I even choose to come back in. And I signed my contract for next year, so hopefully that’s going to continue to be a relative non-issue within my school.