Several years ago, I transitioned my high school Holocaust and genocide studies elective course from an in-person class to a virtual one. At the time, I had many questions and concerns about teaching such difficult subject matter in a virtual environment. While there were certainly challenges, the switch pushed me to examine my teaching praxis more deeply, explore a flipped model of learning, and find new resources and technologies to engage both synchronously and asynchronously.
While certainly sometimes the technology seems to be more of a barrier and actual physical distance between us seems insurmountable, rich texts, robust discussions, and a common purpose inevitably bridge the gaps and bring us together as a class. In the end, I am always reminded of the resilience of my students and my own resilience as an educator. While April is going to be a difficult month for both students and educators in Minnesota and across the country, I know that we will find a way to adjust and adapt to the new and uncertain times ahead. The outpouring of support I have received from colleagues, families, and friends, gives me tremendous hope and lets me know that I am not alone.
I’m also reflecting on the fact that April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month. I know that many educators, myself included, use April as a time to educate students about past and current genocides. Despite the recent uncertainties and challenges for teachers and students, I’m resolved to continue this important work raising awareness of genocide and mass violence with my students. Having recently discussed the Cambodian genocide with my students, their incredulous reaction – “Why haven’t we learned about this before?” – reminds me of the importance of my commitment to educate students about past and current atrocities.
In addition to my role as a high school teacher, I also serve as the educational outreach coordinator for the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (CHGS) at the University of Minnesota. CHGS has a robust collection of online resources to support you and your students this April.
If you are planning to teach about the Holocaust this spring, we have links to 60 full-length video-recorded Minnesota Holocaust Survivor Testimonies, which were recorded in 1984 and are now housed at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. We also have videos of several local Holocaust survivor testimonies that were collected in collaboration with Spanish painter Felix de la Concha for CHGS’s Portraying Memories Project, in which Concha painted survivors’ portraits as they shared their stories. These testimonies are typically under 30 minutes in length and would be perfect for middle and high school students.
If you are planning to teach about the Armenian genocide, we have a robust collection of materials in our digital archive, including Relief Posters and Articles from Minnesota Newspapers (1915-1922). These primary resources shed light on how Minnesotans may have understood the events of the genocide as they were unfolding. Our community partners at St. Sahag Armenian Church have created an online exhibit, Treasures of Memory and Hope, featuring the stories of local survivors and their families. These resources would be ideal for both middle and high school students.
In addition, we also have many educator resource guides covering a number of different case studies of genocide, including newly published guides on Holodomor and Genocide by the Islamic State/Daesh in Iraq and Syria. We also have sample lesson plans on the Rwandan genocide, Cambodian genocide, and the U.S.-Dakota War. In addition, a recording of a recent educator workshop, “Teaching Students About Nativism and White Supremacy and their Relationship to Racism and Antisemitism,” can also be accessed online. While these resources can support what you are already doing in your virtual classrooms, we’d love to hear about how we can support you and your students within the contexts and constraints in which you teach,
At CHGS, we do our best work when we are able to connect and engage with educators and students directly. Our Genocide Education Outreach (GEO) program, which connects advanced graduate students studying genocide and related topics with classrooms, has a history of offering virtual lectures, discussions, and activities. We’d love to discuss the possibilities of bringing a virtual guest speaker on a topic related to genocide or mass violence in your classroom. For more information, email George Dalbo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At CHGS, we are inspired by the tremendous effort that is being made by educators to support the physical, emotional, and academic needs of their students and communities. Thanks for all you do.
George Dalbo is the Educational Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and a Ph.D. student in Social Studies Education at the University of Minnesota with research interests in Holocaust, genocide, and human rights education. Previously, he was a middle and high school social studies teacher, having taught every grade from 5th-12th in public, charter, and independent schools in Minnesota, as well as two years at an international school in Vienna, Austria.