Tensions are rising. Teaching students about the Middle East


If you are like me, or many Americans, just being able to identify Iran and Iraq on a map can be a challenge. Now, the news is filled with concern over the rising tension between the US and Iran. So what does that mean for us as special education teachers? Do we just ignore these current events, or do we try to find a way to help our students understand why it all matters? Do we even know ourselves why it matters?

The Middle East can seem like a mysterious place that we might want to ignore. Why do our students need to worry about what is happening all the way around the world? These are all good questions. They do not have easy answers. I will share my thoughts, even though I know many people may disagree. And, if you want to be able to teach your students a little more about this culture, I have a book for you to download.

If you teach older students, there is one main reason I think you need to address this current news with your students. Whatever happens in Iran following the assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani by US military troops, the effect will certainly be felt here in the US. And, I believe, our students in some way will personally feel this effect as well.

1. Increased deployment of military troops

More troops are heading to the Middle East in response to the increased threat from Iran. This means, for many of our students, there may be a family member or close friend who will soon be gone. Students may feel confused and sad. In addition, family members may be distracted and less attentive. When students understand a situation, it often eases their anxiety. Finally, it gives parents a tool to use at home to talk with their kids about what is happening, especially if it impacts their family in a significant way.

2. Increased cost of living

Any threat to a nation in the Middle East has the ability to make oil prices rise. Hours after this most recent attack, oil prices around the world rose by $3 a barrel. Although, we may not feel the effects today, if the US does end up going to war it will be felt, economically, by all Americans. War is expensive. The threat of war in a country rich in oil is even more expensive.

Many families today live paycheck to paycheck. If the cost of a gallon of gas increases, that can mean fewer vacations or even trips to the local park. The price of many products we buy is determined by the cost of getting that product to the store. This involves large trucks and lots of gas. A war in the Middle East could actually affect what a family serves for dinner. It could also affect how often they can go to McDonalds for dinner. Our students will find it difficult to understand the reason behind these changes. And, although they may not like it, we can help them understand why they are happening.

3. Increase in tension

As with any major news event, it can bring tension and uncertainty. Our students feel these shifts in attention and routines, and it can make them feel unsafe. Our students may not be able to grasp the true understanding of what is occurring in the Middle East, but we can certainly assure them it has nothing to do with them. If students can grasp even the basic idea that the tension is being caused by events far away, it can decrease their anxiety that it will affect them more directly.

4. Educate parents

So, here is the truth. Very few people understand what is happening in the Middle East. As a country, we do not understand or appreciate this culture. So, when things like this occur, it is very challenging for us to make sense of it. And, if parents do not understand what is happening, then how can they answer their kids’ questions? By teaching students this information in the classroom, the material then goes home for the parents to see and consume.

In order to help you learn more about the Middle East and share that information with your students and parents, I have a book to share that I wrote on this topic. It is perfect for middle and high school (a little too deep for elementary level unfortunately.) Click the button below to download it. It has 57 pages, but I also will link a voice recorded power point version students can listen to on an iPad if you don’t want to print all that out.

If you want more information on teaching about current events and grab a free lesson plan and book on Immigration, read the blog post I have HERE.

Knowledge is power.





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