Slice of Life Tuesday: The small things in the midst of the muck and the mire

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:

Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 10.25.27 PM.png

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.



29 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: The small things in the midst of the muck and the mire

  1. My words are simple “well done”. I have wondered how I would act at this time when earlier elections have been such fun to watch, discuss, learn from. Your stance makes me proud, Tara. I had a couple of former students who are now teaching write me last Wed. early in the morning for support and advice. I was sad for them, but hopeful too because they wanted to do well for their students, just like you. Thanks!

  2. So hard. It really is completely different than any other election I’ve taught during (or lived through). It sounds like you did a great job with your class.

  3. Thank you for sharing. How do we continue without naming what is happening and discussing it?This is unlike anything we’ve experienced before and I too am not sure how to even proceed. It does feel that the small things are all we have right now.

  4. Amazing that so far away in Kuala Lumpur the election has really been a topic of conversation and controversy. Like you, I have been helping my students to choose kind.Gifts from the Enemy sounds like a book I should add to my library.

  5. I hear you, Tara. At our school the principal offered counseling for any child that needed it because of the election. ((Hugs)). Keep on keepin’ on. 🙂

  6. Such a heartrending post. Moving forward through the muck and the mire is not an easy task. Thanks for your words. And perhaps we should all take a lesson from twelve year olds: “being silly on the reading rug just because one is twelve.” Having spent many years with twelve year olds, I was transported to my own classroom by these words. Maybe we need to some time for silly in our lives right now.

  7. I projected the front page of Newela yesterday. It held an image of the ridiculous and the sublime. The students reacted with boos. They are angry, and they have reason to be. This is the reality in my classroom. I wake up exhausted. How must they feel? It is our job to hold up a light of understanding and hope. What better place but a reading and writing classroom. We must keep writing and talking and reading through this mess. We need each other’s words as we wrestle through this mess. Thank you for yours.

  8. When there are classrooms like yours, our students will learn kind and right. I’m praying that all teachers take your stance. Stay strong and be the model your students look to to know the path of goodness.

  9. Thank you for being there for your students. This is a hard and difficult time. Saying we have to move on is easy…doing it is difficult. All we can do now is hope and pray for the best.

  10. It is a confusing time to be sure, but I keep thinking about how much we can do as a collective. There is so much power in your emotion and your words. I want to work to keep the words out there instead of hidden. Silence helps no one.

  11. “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.” Such powerful words to reflect on. Thank you for this post. We must continue.

  12. I live in county that voted for Trump, in a state that voted for Trump, in a country that elected him president. Many of my students are Trump supporters because their parents are as well. We talked about how we have to keep an open mind and an open heart, because so many people will be in need. I hope my students can see this as it will be them going forward who will have to see this through. Thank you for sharing your painful thoughts with us. 🙂

  13. Not much is consoling in this current situation. Lets hope the new generation will be kinder and wiser than the current one. You are contributing immensely in creating a better tomorrow.

  14. Sometimes Winnie the Pooh and Piglet have the best wisdom for times like these. What’s so hard for me now is that the people I’m talking to mostly are as sick as I am. How do we engage others in promoting kindness, civil discourse, and learning from each other. There is such a schism that it hurts my soul. And the cabinet choices keep coming and hurting it more.

    Looking forward to spending time with fellow educators who care so much and are searching for ways to be leaders without marginalization. So, so hard.

  15. Such an touching description of your feelings and your actions. Kudos to you. Now, more than ever, our country needs strong teachers that listen, model and teach kindness.

  16. Life has been a roller coaster of emotions lately. I did hear from teachers that I worked with before the election that they were not speaking about the election. There was too much hurt that could follow from the conversation. Discussions on kindness are needed though and I compliment you on trying to help your students sort out their feelings. Trudy’s book is an excellent choice. Kindness plants the seeds of hope.

  17. I completely agree. We need to focus on the children, the power of choice and all that is good in the world. I worry we are giving more power to the negative by sharing and discussing it more. We need to put up and share as many wonderful moments so we can shift the focus. Thank you for your thoughtful post – I love hearing your voice in this time of confusion. See you soon

  18. It’s true, we live in a difficult time. More difficult than before. But we must be there for the children. We must teach them what love looks and sounds like. You are the hope for their future! And you rock it!

  19. Watching from the sidelines, over in Canada, I can’t imagine how hard this election must have been for so many people who now feel frightened for their safety, their freedoms, their rights. How do we encourage children to be loving, respectful, fair and kind when they see a perfect example of a person who is the opposite of all of those things and yet seems to be winning at life? Sad, sad times.

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