Start With Yourself | Facing History & Ourselves
An English Language Arts teacher prepares to teach a literature unit for middle and high school students.

Start With Yourself

Reflect on your identity as an educator and your ideas about teaching and learning, as well as your school context and the students in your classroom.


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At a Glance



English — US


  • English & Language Arts


  • Culture & Identity


About This Section

Students learn best when their teachers are purposeful in their planning and responsive to their students’ needs. This process starts before the planning even begins, with teachers taking the time to reflect on their own identities and ideas about teaching and learning, as well as getting to know their students as unique individuals and learners.

When educators engage in this reflective process and develop a curriculum and pedagogy that is relevant and responsive to the individual and collective needs of their class, the classroom becomes a space that fosters curiosity about self and others, empathy, and a sense of agency—all tools that students need to enact positive change in their communities and the world.

Section 1 of the Unit Planning Toolkit contains guidance and resources to support educator self-reflection. This includes:

  • A video and reading about the importance of educator self-reflection
  • An interactive slideshow that explains key aspects of adolescent identity development
  • Resources to cultivate a brave and reflective classroom community

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Inside this Section

Inside This Section

At Facing History, we understand that before students can engage with challenging topics, they need to feel confident that they are part of a brave and reflective community where they are known, valued, and supported by their teachers and peers. This ongoing process starts with personal reflection on the part of the teacher and invites students to help establish and uphold norms for how everyone will treat one another.

Dr. John Amaechi and Dylan Wray reflect on the importance of educators’ interactions with and expectations for their students. Amaechi is a psychologist and former NBA player. Wray is a Facing History educator and co-founder and executive director of Shikaya, a nonprofit civil society organization that recognizes the crucial role that teachers can play in strengthening South Africa’s democracy.

Prepare to engage your students in a coming-of-age unit by deepening your own understanding of the physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and moral transformations they are undergoing during their adolescence.

We encourage you to explore the following resources in order to foster community and prepare students to engage in brave and reflective classroom discussions.

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Materials and Downloads

Quick Downloads

Use Section 1 of your Educator Workbook, available below in Google Doc format, to complete a guided self-reflection. As you progress through the Unit Planning Toolkit, you will revisit the workbook to guide your planning and design process. 

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Facing History & Ourselves is designed for educators who want to help students explore identity, think critically, grow emotionally, act ethically, and participate in civic life. It’s hard work, so we’ve developed some go-to professional learning opportunities to help you along the way.

The resources I’m getting from my colleagues through Facing History have been just invaluable.
— Claudia Bautista, Santa Monica, Calif