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Teachers touch so many lives every day as kids move in and out of their classrooms — and so many teachers, in turn, are affected by their students’ trials, from homework struggles to major life events. The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers prompts heavy hearts and weary minds, as does the ongoing war Russia started with Ukraine. We start with the determination of Ukrainian teachers and students and the many ways they and US teachers and students are trying to keep sadness at bay with constructive or charitable works.
Teachers and students killed; schools bombed. Syrian teacher Abdulkafi Alhamdo, who saw schools destroyed during the Syrian civil war in 2014, knows how Ukrainians are suffering. “When they see their school destroyed, do you know how many dreams have been destroyed?” he asks. Save the Children, which is helping to set up online learning sites, says, “Educating every child is essential to preventing grave violations of their rights.”
Teaching amid the chaos. Teacher Viktoria Timoshenko, 25, whose high-school biology classroom was partially destroyed by a Russian shell, helped some of her students stay safe as Russia invaded Ukraine and stayed connected via online classes, resulting in 18 of 20 students graduating on time.
New schools become a refuge. Across Europe, schools have been making room for Ukrainian teachers and students, who often don’t speak the language in the country where they’ve landed. In Poland, Ukrainian refugee/educators quickly gathered donations to start Warsaw’s Ukrainian School for people fleeing from Ukraine: For 22 teaching positions, 300 teachers applied; 400 students sought one of the 270 available desks. At a school in Belgium that has absorbed several dozen refugees, teachers are trained to notice signs of trauma in students, and psychologists are on call.
Ukrainian students find deeper connection with their country. Ukrainians aren’t surprised if someone thinks they’re Russian, but the war has prompted many to dig deeper to explore their own feelings about their identity. Ukrainian students at Vassar College explain their thought process, with one noting: “Spreading culture is what matters. Globally, people should be inclusive towards Ukrainians and cooperate with Ukrainian artists and organizations. We often learn about other countries through the culture, so the world should definitely make that a focus.”
Determined students win science prizes. Two 17-year-old students from Ukraine won awards (and four others were finalists) in the world’s largest high-school science and engineering fair after competing virtually, despite being displaced from their home country. “It was very important for me to show that Ukraine and Ukrainian people are strong, and they are really good in the field of science, as well,” says Sofiia Smovzh, who has been seeking ways to improve cancer drugs for the past year.
Ukrainian in the US: From no English to teaching special ed. Staten Island teacher Nataliya Shchesnyak emigrated from Ukraine at age 35, speaking not a word of English. She’s since mastered the language, earned a certificate to teach special education students and secured a job teaching pre-kindergartners. Shchesnyak moved mountains to get her niece and nephew from the current terror in Ukraine to the safety of her US home. “You wouldn’t even know the stuff that is going on (for Shchesnyak) at home, because she still comes here every day, full force, ready to engage with whatever she had planned,” a coworker says.
Back in Ukraine … One Ukrainian school’s electricity isn’t back online yet, and plastic sheets have replaced bombed-out windows, but students and teachers have been eager to go back to teach and learn, carving out even the tiniest sense of normalcy. However, in Russian-occupied areas, many teachers say they are being forced to change curriculum and teach in Russian. Meanwhile, President Volodymyr Zelensky took time amid his country’s horror to offer condolences to those affected by the mass shooting at a Texas school as well as all people in the US.
Lesson plan for teaching US students about the war in Ukraine. The New York Times offers a lesson highlighting a news article — and adds several lesson ideas and resources from teachers around the US.
More stories on education and Ukraine
- “Academic solidarity is important.” (Balkan Insight)
- Arizona teacher to teach in Ukraine this summer. (KNXV-TV, Phoenix, Ariz.)
- American students reach out to help Ukrainians in Maine, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and many other states. (Several sources)
A roundup of items on US school shootings — and preventing them
- Experts say we can prevent school shootings. Here’s what the research says. (NPR)
- A plan for preventing mass shootings and ending all gun violence in American schools. (Everytown for Gun Safety)
- 16 facts about gun violence and school shootings. (Sandy Hook Promise)
- Uvalde school shooting: Faith leaders offer comfort, call for reform of gun laws. (Religion News Service)
- How parents should talk to their kids about the tragedy. (Fox News)
- Why the President, Congress and the Supreme Court can’t — or won’t — stop mass shootings. (CNN)
- Why can’t America do anything to stop mass shootings? (The Guardian)
- Research: Armed campus police do not prevent school shootings. (Politifact)
- The Texas shooting shows the futility of arming teachers. (MSNBC)
- We asked every senator what action should be taken on guns. Here’s what they said. (PBS NewsHour)
- “This could be our school.” (Education Week)
- Amanda Gorman’s poem after the shooting. (USA Today)
- Resources for educators and school leaders. (ASCD)
- Students need safe environments to learn, live, and grow. (National Education Association)
More from SmartBrief Education:
- 5 ways new school-home communication meets family, staff needs
- 5 virtual-classroom tools to foster authentic connections
- Changing the classroom experience with instructional audio
- Powerful social media solutions for students
- How comics curriculum boosts SEL
- 8 ways to make vocabulary instruction more effective