What do we say to our kids?

My school was one of the lucky few that  did not have classes on Wednesday, November 9, 2016.  We had a professional development day scheduled for the district long before we knew what the election season would hold for everyone.  This professional development day is then followed by two days of a statewide teachers conference where all public schools are closed on Thursday and Friday.  During these days my administrative team prepared a statement that we sent to our teachers and another one to our students.  Below are  my original thoughts to teachers before edits by my colleague.  The statement we shared with staff is much shorter and cleaner, but I could not let my original thoughts go without sharing them as a part of my way of making this world stronger and better and processing this unprecedented election.   

We hope everyone has enjoyed the teachers conference, a little time away from the daily routine, and a bit of time with family and friends.  Thank you to all who participated in our day of learning on Wednesday, November 9.  We had a good morning session focusing on our literacy goal with a focus on next steps as you challenge yourselves to “make thinking visible” in the classroom.  

As well as attending professional development sessions on Wednesday, many of you had questions and concerns about what may happen on Monday when students return after the election.  Below are some ideas on how to address the situations that may arise in your classrooms and although this is not an exhaustive list nor does it have all the answers, this is a start as to how to have conversations with students.  We are a building of professionals and we ask that you will support one another as we experience this election results together.  

Points to focus on with students when the discussion happens in the classroom:

 

  • All students are valued no matter off race, religious, or gender.  There are students (and staff members) who do not feel valued right now and we must tell they are valued and appreciated.  We must tell them that all people’s opinions, thoughts and feelings are valued here at our school.  
  • All students are safe at our school.  When some of our students may not feel safe outside of our walls, we need to continue to tell them they are safe with us.  We must tell students that in our classrooms, hallways, and sports fields they are safe from words or actions that seek to hurt them.  
  • We seek for understanding.  No matter what the outcome to the election would have been, there is always more than one side and someone will always feel they lose something.  We have to protect all students, no matter what their political view, especially with students who sit on the opposite side of the partisan line from us as the teacher.  We must not allow anyone to feel attacked for their thoughts, feelings, or beliefs.  

 

Students may need space to talk about the way they are feeling, concerns they have for the future, relief because of the outcome, or a myriad of other things.  Our counselors and administration will be available if needed for individuals or small groups of students throughout the day.  

Feel free to reach out to any of the administrators if you would like support in your classroom Monday or in the coming weeks.  

Thank you for your continued professionalism and honest support and care for our students.  It is during a time where our country is divided in our want for a President that we will come together to show that all people, students and staff, are valued and needed to make our country and world a special place to be.  

Just the act of writing this email provided a bit of therapy for me.  When writing I was forced to consider both sides while keeping  the safety and well-being  of our students and staff as my focus.  Although we begin by asking the question, “What am I supposed to say to my students” I cannot forget our staff members who are seeking to understand and need support themselves for fear of the act on promises made throughout this campaign.  

During the afternoon professional development session I attended the topic was intended to be Cultural Competency.  Dr. Ali Michael (@alimichaelphd) presented in September to a different group of teachers and focused on steps to creating a positive racial identity and then seeking to understand the racial identity others go through in their lives.  Before the session began, she asked if it was ok to discuss the election results since so much of the political rhetoric has been tied to race, religion and gender.  This is exactly the what people needed at exactly the right time.  

For the next three hours, nine people created a safe space to feel, think, talk, ask questions, and begin to create a plan on how we are to look at the faces of young people and make them feel safe and valued.  Much of the email we sent to staff came from blogs and emails such as the one Ali wrote “What do we tell the children?” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-should-we-tell-the-children_us_5822aa90e4b0334571e0a30b?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004 via @HuffPostEdu

I do not have all of the answers to the questions my students will ask, but I do know that they are resilient, hopeful, and persistent in creating a better school, community, and world..  This is what keeps me coming back day after day.  This is what provides happiness and satisfaction in my soul even in the darkest times.  Making American Great Again? Yes, I believe we can.   

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