TTT: How do we teach about Ferguson?


Photo Credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Photo Credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters


The events in Ferguson, Missouri over the last several weeks, which have been covered extensively on social networks and, to a lesser extent, in the media, are an extremely difficult–and extremely important–topic to discuss with our students.  This is especially true for those of us who teach older students who are likely following the events in Ferguson in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting either in the press or in their social media newsfeeds.

It’s a difficult topic, and both teachers and students are likely to have a wide range of feelings about what they’ve been hearing: they may feel angry, scared, hurt, depressed, frustrated, voiceless, confused, or any number of things.  As educators, we can’t sweep this major story under the rug; it is our job to facilitate conversations with our students so that we can all learn from the history that is being created in this very moment.

But how?

#FergusonSyllabus has been sweeping Twitter and Instagram as teachers hash out in their community how–if at all–to deal with Ferguson in their classrooms.  These conversations are a great place to start if you’re looking to hear from others about how their classes and schools will respond to the murder of Michael Brown and the resultant protests in Missouri.  Another place to look is in the NYCWP Forum; if you don’t see a thread on teaching about Ferguson, start one and get the conversation going.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Marcia Chatelain joined Paul Allison (NYCWP’s Technology Liaison and one of the Founders of Youth Voices) and other educators on Teachers Teaching Teachers to talk about her thinking around #FergusonSyllabus and ways to address this issue in our classrooms as school gets started this week.  According to Paul:

One of the take-aways from that conversation was to be reminded of the power of for our students. It’s important to see and hear the views of students from different communities. The students in Chris Sloan’s classes in Salt Lake City and the students in Jo Paraiso’s classes in Oakland and my students in the Bronx are relatively homogeneous, and they can learn a lot from talking with students outside of their immediate school communities — especially on issues of race.

You can view the entire episode of Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT) below:


A week later, TTT revisited the conversation about Ferguson with Christopher Emdin as a featured participant.

In a recent Huffington Post article (August 20, 2014), as Paul reminded the NYCWP community recently, Emdin posits:

For educators, one way to establish norms with young people and set the appropriate tone for the school year is to focus instruction on events and issues that mean something to students. This is particularly important for youth of color, given the Michael Brown shooting and the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.

The entire article can be found at the link, and the TTT episode featuring Emdin can be viewed below.


On the NYCWP listserv, other teachers have suggested some of the following ideas:

  • This collection on Gooru is available for anybody to use with students and contains materials appropriate for discussing Ferguson and Michael Brown.
  • Teaching For Change has a good article with a lot of links (most of them Rethinking Schools links), resources and ideas about how to address Ferguson with your class and encourage them to become proactive in their communities.  
  • NPR’s On The Media’s most recent show has several sections analyzing the media coverage surrounding the events in Ferguson.  The Anatomy of Six Shootings quickly breaks down the pattern of the media, political and social response to recent highly publicized shootings of young black men.  Live Coverage’s Impact on the Ground and The Media Came to Town focus on how local news made choices about how to cover the event and the interactions with national media.  The Global View of Ferguson contrasts how media in other countries are covering the story with more criticism and historical context.
  • NYCWP Teacher-Leader Priscilla Thomas also covers the matter on her blog, Those Who Can.

We would love to hear from you, either in the forums or by email, about this topic.  Please share your thoughts and resources with our community.

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