Back to School 2020: Building Community for Connection and Learning

Posted by Leora Schaefer, Jasmine Wong, Jeannette Slater, Erez Zobary on August 27, 2020


Dear Friend of Facing History, 

As the end of summer approaches, we want you to know how much you inspire us. We know you are approaching the challenges of this new school year with unwavering determination and commitment to your calling and to your students. Whether you're going back remotely, in-person, or a hybrid of the two, Facing History and Ourselves is here to support you. 

We are excited to share new Back To School Resources with you, which will include:

  • Reflection prompts and strategies to help you centre relationships and care 
  • Strategies for opening and closing routines  
  • Activities for a remote or hybrid start
  • Lesson ideas for creating reflective, courageous classroom communities
    As you explore the activity materials in lesson 1 on identity and name, we suggest pairing it with the following resources for Canadian classrooms:
  • "Call Me By My (Real) Name: By letting others mispronounce it, I found other parts of myself slipping. I'm done with that"
    In this article, Tanvi Bhatia talks about the story of her name and the implications of mispronunciation as "when you make your name more palatable, you make yourself more palatable too. You adapt to the social norms and behaviours of where you are, and as a result, you start to lose parts of yourself and the place you call home."  

TanviIndianFlagImage courtesy of and submitted by the author.

Inuit childrenImage courtesy of Stolen Lives

  • Prom by Hasan Minhaj 
    This podcast by American comedian Hasan Minhaj touches on his high school and prom experience where he, in a humorous way, discusses the topics of identity, feelings of not fitting in, racism, rejection, forgiveness and courage. Minhaj's father immigrated to the US from Aligarh, India and throughout the podcast he shares the advice and life lessons from his father in his native tongue.


Minhaj in High School courtesy of The Moth

  • The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
    This picture book is a great resource for younger grades and explores the story of Unhei (pronounced Yoon-Hey) who moved from Korea and is nervous about her first day of school due to the fear of people mispronouncing her name. After a week of hiding her real name from her class, they decide to offer up English names in a jar for her to choose from. Thanks to the encouragement of her friends, Unhei chooses her own name and teaches everyone how to pronounce it properly.  


Photo courtesy of A Different Booklist

Also remember that you can learn, share ideas and strategies, and connect to other educators on our online teacher lounge.

Screen Shot 2020-08-26 at 1.28.21 PM

Looking Ahead to Fall 2020

This fall, we will be offering these online professional learning opportunities and resources and more:


Out of the chaos of the last few months has come tremendous creativity. We have learned a great deal about how you are reimagining your classrooms, constantly reinventing the learning experience for your students. We have watched with tremendous appreciation how you continue to navigate the complexities of reopening this new school year, even with concerns around safety, health, equity, and the social emotional needs of young people. Please continue to be in touch, to share your triumphs and tribulations so we can continue to support you.


Thank you for all that you do for students and their communities,

Welcome Back Photo

Leora Schaefer, Jasmine Wong, Jeannette Slater, Erez Zobary

ICYMI This Summer

Here are some of the things we have been doing to support educators this summer:

Topics: Back-To-School, Facing History Resources, Teaching Resources, Community


This is where Canadian Facing History and Ourselves teachers and community members meet to share reflections, scholarship and teaching practices that will inspire, challenge and improve teaching and student learning. Our stories provide a window into diverse Facing History classrooms in Canada, and invite you into the discussion.

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