I’m going to begin by saying that this past week was a whirlwind of emotions for me. You see, I was an avid Hillary supporter, and I was so very hopeful as we entered election day. However, this post isn’t a political post. I won’t share my views on the Democratic Party’s platform or my opinions on President-Elect Trump. Instead, I’d like to share my own reflections on moving forward.
November 8th-Election Day Excitement
In the evening of November 8, I brought my boys to the polling booth so I could talk to them about the importance of voting, explain why I was choosing the way to vote on certain issues, and engage them in the process. We were excited. Finally, it was Election Day! They gave me their input on how to vote on the ballot initiatives and asked questions about what a state representative and senator does. We got our “I voted” stickers and proudly headed to Dunkin Donuts for an Election Day treat, in anticipation of the first woman being elected President of the United States.
As the election results came in, my close friends and I quickly spiraled into despair as our hopeful enthusiasm turned into devastated disbelief.
But then…..I went to the Memorial Elementary School Veteran’s Day concert on Thursday, November 10th. The most adorable children, ages 3-10, decked out in red, white, and blue, sang their hearts out to recognize our local servicemen and women. That moment centered me. It drowned out the noise and negativity of social media discourse and gave me hope for a bright future.
Here is a video clip of our students singing a song by Teresa Jennings called “One Nation.”
ONE NATION (Teresa Jennings)
Maybe we’re not the same color. Maybe we’re not the same race.
Maybe we don’t have the same beliefs or live in the same kind of place.
Maybe we think we’re too different. Maybe that’s simply not true.
Maybe I also have hopes and dreams, and maybe I share them with you, share with you, oh!
We are one nation, yes, we are one land!
Together in freedom, united we stand! Oh!
We are one nation, yes, we are one land!
Together in freedom, united we stand! Oh.
We are a rainbow of people. We have our own history.
We share a nation with common bonds, a nation where people are free.
We know that freedom is precious. We know the cost is extreme.
We share commitment and gratitude; we share our American Dream,
share our Dream, oh!
We are, we are, we are one nation! 3X’s
Ah! One nation!
BE THE CHANGE
So in keeping with my blog’s mantra, here are some reflections on how I am moving forward as an educator in a time of political change.
1. Seek First To Understand
First, I tried to read multiple articles about the election, including opposing political viewpoints, to seek to better understand the multitude of perspectives that will contribute to the leadership of the next four years. In working with our students, we can try to foster a similar approach to help them navigate political discourse in a safe and productive manner. This is more easily accomplished when one can learn to empathize and put themselves in another’s shoes. It is difficult enough sometimes for adults to converse around divisive topics, so this is an important skill to help to develop in our students. Understanding people’s life stories and perspectives and “walking in their shoes” is essential to fostering civil discourse. Here is a resource on teaching civil discourse.
2. Have Faith in our Political Institutions
It was my 10-year-old son, who is currently studying the three branches of government, who helped remind me of the enduring strength of our democratic institutions. This election is a great opportunity to remind our students about the strength of our political institution and history as a nation. Here are a few strategies to help build the students’ knowledge and understanding of the process.
- Use the historical events taking place to instruct them about topics like the peaceful transition of power.
- Illustrate examples of how our government is designed based the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances, so no matter who the president is, there are checks on that power.
- Ensure students understand how the Bill of Rights was created to protect our fundamental rights such as speech, press, assembly, and religion (among many others).
- Provide students with historical examples of how our country’s leadership and political leanings are like a pendulum that swing left and right, but eventually, move towards the middle.
- Analyze the President-Elect’s appointments to key leadership roles and the significance of those roles
3. Recognize that our Differences are our Strength
As we all move forward, we are witnessing numerous reactions to the election results. I’ve seen some people check out from the world and social media. Others are embracing movements such as the safety pin protest. Some are fearful, while some are calling for Unity. Others are hopeful and enthusiastic about the changes to come, while some are using their right to assemble in protests. So what is an educator to do in these times? First, we need to make sure we remain neutral in our political leanings while at school. Second, we need to foster an environment where students can safely express their opinions and stand up for what they believe in. Finally, we need to let our students know that our schools will be a safe haven where differences will be celebrated, respected, and protected.
Here is a great resource from Teaching Tolerance that offers various activities on countering bias, getting along, and engaging in civic activities with students.