This is a tough week to write a “Celebrate this week” post about. The election has left me in stunned despair. What is there to celebrate?
Wednesday was a day of professional development in our school, and Thursday and Friday were days set aside for the NJEA convention, a union sponsored event. The last time I saw my students was on Monday, when we discussed the election and the electoral process in preparation for Tuesday. We had a mock election in which Hillary Clinton won handily, and that was that. That was then.
On Monday, we will have to pick up that conversation and begin some new ones. This is now. And now things have changed…
At our pd sessions on Wednesday, there was a palpable sense of sadness and disbelief among some of us, and the glint of gloating victory among others. It was difficult to have conversations with colleagues when it became clear who had voted one way or another. It was difficult, for me, to look into the eyes of people I work side by side with and know that they had cast their vote for a man who was open and unapologetic about his views on race, religion, sexual assault, and women. If you voted for Trump, you voted for the perpetuation and protection of racism, misogyny, religious intolerance, and xenophobia. You reveal who you are by the way you cast your vote. It’s as simple as that.
And yet, at the end of the day, I work with these people in the service of the children we are privileged to teach. On Monday, those children will walk into our classrooms again, and I must be prepared to set aside my revulsion at what these colleagues apparently stand for, and work with them for the betterment of our students. That work remains.
But, in some critical ways, that work has also changed as a result of the election. In schools across the country, there has been a surge of hate crimes: swastikas painted on buildings, “white” and “colored” signs placed above water fountains, “build the wall” chanted in cafeterias to target latino students…and the list goes on. It was symbolic that Trump won the election on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, and no one should be surprised that his supporters would express their jubilation with acts of hatred – that was absolutely predictable. And, this is just the start. We need to understand that, and to prepare for how we will respond to that. Our children deserve better role models and mentors than the man who will soon sit in the Oval Office. They need us to step up, be vigilant, take notice, speak out, and ensure their safety. They need us to remind them that hatred, prejudice, and bullying are not okay…even though that is how they have seen the new President-elect behaving throughout the election and through all the years before.
So, here’s the silver lining: the way educators have come together all over social media to make a pledge to their students that schools and classrooms will be safe spaces of support, empathy, and respect.
Kylene Beers wrote us a letter we teachers need to read, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater urged us to find causes to support in what are sure to be needy times ahead, and #kidlitsafety pins is trending on Twitter as a way to share the message with our students that we mean to keep them safe. There are also articles here and here to help us navigate challenging conversations we are sure to have with our students, and Amy’s padlet of thoughtful resources we can all be a part of contributing to.
And in that collective spirit of coming to figure out how to lead our students through a Trump Presidency which has deep roots in the very worst tendencies in American society, and will no doubt keep those tendencies at the forefront in the months and years ahead, we can preserve honor and decency. There is something to celebrate in that.