Empathy

Today I worked on another diversity lesson with my students. We’ve been talking about push factors and why people might leave their home countries. This time we did a study of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. I presented students with a slideshow of various images from the Khmer Rouge. Students (and these were 10-11th graders) were asked to write down the words that came to mind as they viewed the various images. They saw images of torture victims, demolished city structures, mass graves and other images that provided insight into the genocide that happened from 1975-1978. Words that students used included: Grimm, death, torture, devastation, annihilation, struggle, starvation, and discrimination. I was really proud of the empathy they showed toward the Cambodian people and the frustration they showed at the denial by the leaders of the regime. We then read an article from 2007 when some of the leaders had finally been arrested. We answered some questions and discussed it. I heard a lot of frustration about how long the leaders got to live without being held accountable for the atrocities they committed. I also had students ask me about how the United States responded to the leaders of the regime at that time. I even had students ask if some of the Asian population of refugees in our city are from that time…yes. I had students literally express to me that they had no idea that was why people had left their homeland and moved here. I am really proud of my students and I’m hoping the engagement in this topic continues.

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