Hope: Keep Looking Forward

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I can’t fathom blogging about anything else today while my head’s still spinning from the shock I feel after Donald Trump has been elected as our next president of the United States. I mean really, just to put that in writing feels heavy.  

Returning to work Wednesday morning was hard. I wanted to take the day off.  I thought there was no way I could manage a smile or an ounce of enthusiasm that a teacher of young children HAS to have.  

Although my school did have a strange desolate quietness to it, I was met with open arms,  hugs, and a feeling of unity from my teacher family.  We all knew.  We all felt the loss and disappointment.  

One of my colleagues and friends stated one sentence that keeps ringing through my ears.  Laurie said, “I feel like 30 years of teaching just went out the window.”  

In a profession in which we promote and teach kindness, in a profession in which we emphasize equality and fairness, in a profession in which we strive to build cooperative classrooms with trust and empathy; how do we explain how a person who does not represent these values end up as our country’s leader?

Education, really, is not about teaching the skills of reading and writing, it’s about the skills of being human.  Being thoughtful, being willing to trust, being empathetic and, maybe most importantly, being able to admit when one needs help. Isn’t that what we want for our children as they grow and become the next citizens who make decisions in our world?

We all feared “The Trump Effect”.  “The Trump Effect” has been coined by the media as a gradual psychological effect and increase in bullying by school age children across the country since Donald Trump began his campaign.  Read more about the Trump here and  here.

Sadly, The Trump Effect is not a myth.  It is a terrifying reality. I have shed many tears over the last few days seeing the acts of hate and discrimination in blatant response to the presidential election.  Middle school students chanting “build the wall”, white high school girls telling students of color to move to the back of the bus, swastika graffiti on a Jewish store, and “Black lives don’t matter and neither do your votes” spray painted on the walls in my own city.  These are just a few examples of the hateful signs of the Trump Effect we are witnessing.

So now what? How can we turn this election cycle of insanity into a cycle of empowerment?  What can we do in our little corners of the world to empower ourselves and our students to stand up to these attitudes?

That Wednesday morning that I was feeling like hiding at home and not going into school, I ended up feeling a lot of support and hope by the end of the day.  Parents of our students brought in coffee and supportive words.  Our administration offered encouragement.  Our local school system left the following message on our home phone in English and Spanish. (see it here):  DPS message to families  .   I looked into the eyes of my preschoolers and saw hope and love.  They distract me and remind me that what we do everyday in our classroom can change the way they look at themselves, each other, and the world outside our classroom.

I found this article to be a powerful, helpful perspective on what to share with our students who are hurting and confused.  It also helped guide my conversation of the presidential election outcome with my own children.

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So, what actions do we, as both educators and parents, take as a result of the presidential election outcome? First, we talk to our students about it.  We have to discuss it.  In this article Ali Michaels (2016) wisely suggests,

Tell them, first, that we will protect them. Tell them that we have democratic processes in the U.S. that make it impossible for one mean person to do too much damage. Tell them that we will protect those democratic processes ― and we will use them ― so that Trump is unable to act on many of the false promises he made during his campaign.”

“Tell them, second, that you will honor the outcome of the election, but that you will fight bigotry. Tell them bigotry is not a democratic value, and that it will not be tolerated at your school. Tell them you stand by your Muslim families. Your same-sex parent families. Your gay students. Your Black families. Your female students. Your Mexican families. Your disabled students. Your immigrant families. Your trans students. Your Native students. Tell them you won’t let anyone hurt them or deport them or threaten them without having to contend with you first. Say that you will stand united as a school community, and that you will protect one another. Say that silence is dangerous, and teach them how to speak up when something is wrong. Then teach them how to speak up, how to love one another, how to understand each other, how to solve conflicts, how to live with diverse and sometimes conflicting ideologies, and give them the skills to enter a world that doesn’t know how to do this.”

My fellow educators, let’s continue to be active, even more consciously so, in building communities in our classrooms that reflect respect and empathy.  

Inspiration I retweeted today:

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Keep looking forward.

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