It Seems Like We’ve Been Here Before

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My title draws on the Harry Chapin song “Circle”, and its signature line, “It seems like I’ve been here before, I can’t remember when.” Though a song about love, it came to my mind often as I prepared these lessons, saddened by the massive loss of life at Tree of Life, inspired by the response of the Pittsburgh community in the aftermath, and near despondent at the historical patterns that preceded October 27, 2018 and which tragically continue to the present. I have taught college and high school students for 29 years, primarily though juniors and seniors in US History and for the past five years AP US Government. Over that time, I, like you my fellow teachers, have observed students become increasingly anxious and fearful regarding both the present and future for themselves personally and collectively as a nation. At times, we struggle to convince them that, again to echo Chapin, there are no straight lines nor clear-cut beginnings, but we can offer hope that there are “so far no dead ends” and enable students to feel some sense of control and possible means to make an impact in their community and the broader world, not merely in the distant future but in the present.

What follows is a series of lessons, aligned with the CWB requirements but also reflective of what, after years of professional workshops and trainings with colleagues, I have found to be what teachers want: materials they can manipulate, “cut and paste” and apply to their own preferences and classroom needs. I admit to “going down a rabbit hole” in response to this call for lessons and provide a lot more information that any read likely wants. My lessons below will not happen in consecutive days. I share items I have done in the past and ones I just created. The reality, issues and legacy of Tree of Life and the response to the tragedy have been and will be referenced at many points during both my classes. Hence, I beg your patience if you take on reading all I provide and hope that you find one or two nuggets to take into your own teaching. I look forward to reading and learning from other teachers who submit lessons for this important initiative.


Suggested Technology: Computer for Presenter, Projector, Internet Connection, Speakers/Headphones.

Instructional Time: 8 hours.


  • Ateret Cope
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The following lesson plan was written as part of Classrooms Without Borders' Call for Lesson Plans about antisemitism and hate, in commemoration of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

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