Teachers: Read the Opinion Before Giving Your Opinion

And maintain your focus on teaching
Unsplash, Anna Sullivan

Last week, the Supreme Court announced their decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overrule Roe v. Wade, the infamous case which forced states to legalize abortion. 

For most educators around the country, we are weeks away from our students’ return. Certainly, if the response to the leaked Dobbs opinion is any indicator of what is to come, the days and months ahead will be full of unrest and division. Time will allow for feelings to cool but discussions of this decision will make their way into the hallways and classrooms regardless.

So, how shall teachers respond? 

First, educators have a responsibility to present facts within context. By nature of the topic at hand, individuals on both sides of this opinion are easily swept up in emotional appeals. Although there are appropriate outlets for our own opinions and emotions, teachers are called to pursue truth and share it with our students. If you have not read the actual opinion and are merely relying on cute instagram infographics for knowledge, it is not possible for educators to guide students effectively. 

Sharing your opinion without reading the opinion is dishonest. Too often, influencers, policy-makers, and even educators are swept up in trending tweets before they know the facts of a case or read the bill at hand. Do not be fooled; Instagram experts cannot guide meaningful classroom discussions. 

Second, recognize that your students will have different feelings towards the decision; guide students toward understanding of the case should they ask for your direction. Ask hard questions, allow students to think critically, and provide reputable age-appropriate sources for students to research on their own. It’s essential that they understand both sides of the issue and concrete facts.

While educators can provide meaningful spaces for discussion, this is a topic students should not merely contemplate in an academic setting, but within the safe walls of their home and community. 

Last, hold fast to your convictions. Do not overshare with your students to appease educators who use their classrooms as social justice soapboxes or students as political canvases. Undoubtedly, our worldview impacts the content we present to our students. Our work in the classroom is not unemotional nor detached from the world around us. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that our students are profoundly impacted by the world; the same is true for those of us who have the responsibility of leading a classroom.

It is impossible for teachers to be unbiased or unaffected by experiences, and yet, we must move onward and focus on that which we are called to do: teach.

Juliana Sweeny
Juliana Sweeny is a high school history and biblical studies teacher in Loudoun County, Virginia. She is also the executive producer for the Teacher’s Lounge podcast.