Tom Stolz's Portfolio Page

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Return to: ETAP 623 Spring 2021 (Byrne) | How to Handle Controversial Issues Inside Your Classroom


About Me

Hello. My name is Thomas Stolz. I was born July 26th, 1991. I was born up in Albany, New York and I currently reside in Highland, New York. I recently graduated from SUNY New Paltz in May of 2020 with a Bachelor's degree in Adolescent Education with a concentration in Social Studies. This is my second semester at UAlbany in the CDIT Master's program. As of October of 2020, when the schools reopened down here due to Covid-19, I am a permanent building substitute at the Marlboro Central School District. I currently reside in the Middle School (Grades 6-8). I covered and continue to cover various roles during my time there, filling in whenever a teacher is out. I am also CRLA certified, which basically means that I am a certified tutor, which is helpful due to many students struggling to adapt to the new hybrid style of learning.

My Topic and Purpose

My Topic: Teaching Controversial Issues Inside of a Classroom

Purpose: I feel that many classrooms tackle a lot of issues in the classroom. We talk about Race/Racism, we talk about things like the Holocaust, or students may see things on the news or hear things about gun rights, abortion rights, same-sex marriage rights. How do we tackle talking about those sensitive topics inside of a classroom? How do we handle being that pillar of support for our children/students when things that might make us feel uncomfortable or scared happen in the real world? How do we provide support for them? How do we rise to the challenge of talking to students about real world events with troubling side-effects? Something that comes to mind is children from South/Central America locked up in cages on the border, that must terrify or confuse our students and we should be able to talk to them about it. That is the purpose of this KNILT, to talk about what a controversial issue is, the different types of them, and how to talk about them with your students in a way that does not upset or leave people feeling attacked/disrespected/angry.

Scope of Learning Outcomes and Content

Learners will be able to:

  • Understand what a controversial issue (CI) is.
  • Know the difference between an open and closed CI.
  • Explain how to talk about sensitive issues by looking at various impactful issues facing our country today.
  • Learn how to come up with and craft arguments/presentations explaining their side of an argument.

Needs Assessment

Instructional Problem: Throughout my time as a substitute, I have known teachers who just flat out avoid talking about controversial issues that are happening in todays’ world and society. I know that a lot of teachers just flat out refuse to talk about them, how do we become a transformative type of society if we cannot even talk about issues in a safe space, like what school is? Many educators, especially social studies teachers, have to deal with talking about controversial issues that have impacted people throughout history that impact us to this day, like the immigrant crisis, or gun rights, abortion rights, gay/same-sex marriage, trans-rights, all of these things should be talked about inside of the classroom. We have to be able to open up and be honest about these things and let students be able to come up with their own decisions and thoughts on these matters instead of just flat out ignoring them, so students remain confused on such things.

What is being learned: Learners will look at the basics of Controversial Issues. They will look at the who, what, when, where, why, and how in terms of dealing with them. We will talk about many different types and how to tackle such issues inside of the classroom.

About the Learners: The learners in this mini-course, I feel would be mostly English/Social Studies teachers who have trouble tackling such things. I feel that it could be turned into a sort of any type of teacher could use this, since all teachers have to deal with uncomfortable issues inside the classroom. Are we talking stem cell research, are we talking about far leaning political groups, such as Nazis, are we talking about the use of the N-word in certain English literature, are we talking about the misuse/diagnosis of statistics, are we talking about myths involving things like BMI. Like I said, everyone can benefit from it.

Intended Change: I have the hope that people will be able to become more comfortable in talking about certain “taboo” issues, when people gain a better understanding of how to do so in a safe/respectable way. I feel that a lot of teachers do not touch “taboo” topics because they don’t know how, they are afraid of the backlash from parents or administrators. I feel that by learning how to do so comfortably, more things can be talked about. We can have that conversation inside one of the safest places in America, the classroom.

Analysis of the Learner and Context

Context for Instruction: This course will be taught mainly through KNILT. The user will need to have access to good internet/Wi-Fi, a good laptop/computer with the ability to view and participate in this course.

Prerequisite Skills:

  • Understanding of your student demographic, not all classrooms look the same so issues they bring up may be different or affect them differently: BE AWARE OF THAT.
  • Realizing that some students might just be ignorant or have never heard of the topic at hand, please be understanding of that fact.
  • Allow yourself to be able to grow, or see opposing sides to different arguments.
  • Have a slight understanding of how to use the internet/google slides/powerpoint whichever way you will distribute information.
  • Being able to engage a classroom in thoughtful discussion.

Supportive Traits:

  • Willingness to be open with students.
  • Patient when dealing with students who might get upset, or just not understand why things matter.
  • A desire to increase awareness of specific sides of an argument.
  • Being a pillar of support inside the classroom, being thoughtful, being kind, being compassionate, etc, etc.*

Performance-Based Objectives

When learners finish this course, they should be able to:

  • Correctly Identify what a controversial issue (CI) is.
  • Compare and Contrast the differences between an open and closed CI is.
  • Describe the importance of talking about CI’s in the classroom.
  • Describe various ways an educator could talk about or set up discussion about Cis.
  • List multiple different types of CI that they feel is relevant in their classroom.
  • Create a lesson plan based around a CI.

Task Analysis

Elaborate and analyze the objectives to identify more specific enabling and supporting objectives.

Curriculum Map

Curriculum Map

References and Resources