War On Television’ A Harsh Reality For Many North Shore Students
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, schools have looked for ways to address constant images of pain, violence and talk of World War III
“You are finding levels of anxiety and need for clarification younger than you would traditionally because the information is so readily available.” – Marblehead Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Nan Murphy
MARBLEHEAD, MA —When the world changed in an ominous and potentially catastrophically consequential way overnight two weeks ago as Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, the Marblehead School Department leadership team quickly came together to develop a plan for how to explain war playing out on live television to its students.
“The first thing on the agenda was what we were going to do in schools, how we were we going to support families affected, and what is appropriate for different age levels,” Marblehead Assistant Superindent of Teaching and Learning Nan Murphy told Patch on Friday. “Every principal met with their in-person leadership team and had developed a plan. Most of them have such great networks with colleagues, and they all share documents and ideas of what is developmentally appropriate.”
Adding to the challenge in Marblehead is the town’s relatively large Russian population with the district needing to ensure geopolitical judgments aren’t reflected back on the town’s individual students and families.
“We wanted to make sure that we were supporting all families,” Murphy said. “It didn’t matter if it were a Ukrainian family or a Russian family. We wanted to make sure that if the school has a resource that could help a family it was readily available.”
With visceral images of bombs, anguish and even talk of World War III dominating television news coverage day after day, teachers and staff now need to be able to address the emotions that come from fear, apprehension and a wide variety of questions from students at a range of age levels, with the understanding that students of similar ages might have a different level of understanding of world events.
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(Also on Patch: How To Help Ukraine From The North Shore)
“There is so much information accessible to kids today,” Murphy said. “Some households shield information, and with others, it’s more transparent. You are finding levels of anxiety and need for clarification younger than you would traditionally because the information is so readily available. Where it would typically be middle or high school (in years past), depending on the exposure it might be younger kids who need more support with that.
“It’s about meeting the kids where they are at when they are presenting emotions, and with the questions they are asking.”
Salem Superintendent Steve Zrike talked about “developmentally appropriate” conversations with students about the attack in his weekly newsletter to families last week.
“While it is not our role as a school system to take a stance or viewpoint on the conflict, we are invested in supporting our students as they try to make sense of what they are seeing play out in the media and the comments they hear from adults and their peers,” Zrike said. “As this violence and devastation unfold on the national news and social media, students of all ages are watching and listening to news footage that they may find upsetting, confusing and alarming.
“It is important that we give our students opportunities to talk about how they are processing and feeling about this traumatic event. These conversations will always be developmentally appropriate and be responsive to what our talented educators believe our students need as support.”
Talking points provided to Salem parents included providing background information on the history of Ukraine and Russia, sharing stories of the Ukraine people “to humanize the situation,” discussing how the United States and its allies are working to try to end the war and focusing on what concerned students can do to help.
Murphy said her district is being age-appropriate with students as well. While a high school class may be able to have a deep discussion of the war, it is not being addressed in pre-K through third grade, with families notified when the youngest students have questions so they can be involved and comfortable with any conversations.
Our kids come from different parts of the world and see this conflict differently,” Murphy said. “We don’t want to be divisive. We want to take a more supportive stance for everyone.