Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Two Writing Teachers
My head hurts, it’s been a long day. It’s been a long week, really – for last week seems to have melted darkly in this one.
Everywhere there is argument, hurt, anger, and fear. I feel it in the supermarket, the faculty room, getting my car washed, overhearing conversations at Starbucks. I react to it on social media, for there it is, even when I promise myself that I will not think about it any more and will focus on the positive stuff instead – great ideas for my classroom, fabulous books to read, lovely ideas to bring to my writing workshop.
“It” – being the election, of course.
I have taught through many elections, and hard fought though they were, they were also lessons for my students in civics and the beautiful experiment that we still are: a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
But, this election was different. The content of the issues and discourse was often not suitable for my sixth graders to discuss, and even the debates (those wonderful real-life examples of rhetorical devices and posturing that we could dissect and analyze in our classrooms) became off limits.
I am not going to play the game of false equivalencies and say “both sides did it”, because that is simply not true. Trump was a different sort of candidate, who behaved in a different sort of way, and my sixth graders saw it. They knew. They would have been suspended for saying the things that this man did; and, deep in their 12-year old and fairness-obsessed souls, I’m sure that they wondered about the weirdness of this.
And now there is the aftermath: news reports of hate crimes and incidents of bullying in schools across the nation. Our children have been watching and listening, and some of them have decided to try this behavior out for themselves. As a classroom teacher, I have two alternatives. I can ignore everything, pretend that all is just as usual, and just go on with the lesson plan of the day. Or, I can engage. I can name what is out there in the open for all to see, and ask my students how we can respond – as a classroom community, as a school wide community. How can we reach into our best selves in this trying time and find a way to reject hate? to open ourselves to kindness and compassion when we see so little of it around?
I am weighed down by this:
And, knowing the goodness in my kids, I know they are, too.
So, today we talked about being kind in an unkind world. About standing together when we see hateful words spoken. Whether we are grieving or celebrating over the election’s results, we can do so without hurting each other or creating spaces that are unsafe and fearful. We read Trudy Ludwig’s Gifts From the Enemy, and we shared ideas about how we can be helpful and kind even when it’s not easy or convenient. We all need each other, in the end, being our best selves, just to get through the day.
When the bell rang and my children filed out of our classroom, we were all tired and still filled with doubts about how all of this would work out beyond the doors of room 202. Tomorrow, we will lose ourselves in books and stories, in writing about the things that fascinate and worry us, and in being silly on the reading rug just because one is twelve…and why ever not be silly any chance you get? And, we will practice being kind in small, important ways.
For now, in this messy and murky time, this seems enough.