Many teachers have wondered how exactly they would respond to the results of the presidential election. They have wondered how they can both support students feeling vulnerable and unsure, while not appearing partisan in their roles as educators. Teachers hold together the fabric of our society through their interactions during challenging times. Here are some of the ways that teachers around the U.S. are helping students through a changing political and social landscape.
Promoting Kindness: The election has been hard on all of us. Students pick up on this and feel when their teachers are stressed and upset. Many students will be confused, tired, and unclear about what the election results mean for their lives. Teachers can meet this by circling back to a focus on kindness, compassion and acceptance for all students in their classrooms and school communities. Here are some resources:
Choose Kind. This is an online movement based on the book Wonder by RJ Palicio. There are many resources here for inspiring students to show and share kindness.
For younger students who might being feeling vulnerable, #kidltsafetypins on Twitter is featuring kids’ favorite picture books with safety pins to show that illustrators and authors of children’s literature stand for protecting all kids from discrimination and harm. I love this one from Peter Reynolds.
Turning Apathy into Action: Educator Jason Findley encourages educators to focus on what they can control and encourage students to do the same. He says (via Twitter):
“More than ever we must Model & Teach, Tolerance & Acceptance,Social Justice & Equity,
Critical Thinking & Civic Responsibility.”
We can focus with our students the intersection he illustrated here:
This can also be through service and project based learning that makes a difference in students’ communities. When people feel powerless, they can lose hope and become disengaged. Disengaged students are less likely to graduate from high school on time and are less successful both personally and achievement wise. By focusing on what students can do, they can be inspired and engage with their communities in positive ways. Here’s a recent post from AMLE that describes this process, and a Project based learning series I wrote for the Tarrant Institute of Innovative Education that focuses on how to plan for a project based learning unit.
Our first duty as educators is to protect our students. We honor and respect each student no matter their gender, gender identity, religion, socioeconomic status, race, or background. Guidance counselors, teachers and students have been pledging to support each other during a presidency that seems threatening to some groups of our students. Efforts underway so far include:
Having courageous conversations. Students can ask questions, state feelings, and engage with each other about this event in a respectful, supportive environment. Some teachers, including Christie Nold of Vermont, use the Socratic Method for this process. Students will not agree on all of the issues, but it is critical that they feel heard and supported as they process their experiences. Students need to learn and practice disagreeing respectfully and listening to others. By reading articles, reflecting with journal prompts, and discussing, students (like many adults) can move through their feelings and learn from each other.
Pledge to work together to improve communities. This election shows us that we can’t just like a petition or a candidate on Facebook. Students, with teachers or parents, can connect with each other in their own communities. Susan Stiffleman described this:
“What scares children is powerlessness. So, what do we tell our children? We tell them–we show them– that they are powerful. We dig in. We empower them with a sense of agency. We make room in our busy lives to bridge the divide and contribute to the improvement of the lives of those around us. We bring them up as active citizens of a shifting democracy who can exercise their voice and be heard.”
We are the bridge makers for them. Teachers and parents can connect students with opportunities to feel their own sense of power and agency– through their educations, through extended learning opportunities, and through social networks.
Make Art. In challenging times, some of the best art is created. All you have to do is look back in history or even in popular culture (Adele’s heartbreak, anyone?). I have been reminded that for creativity to flourish, we often need to struggle a bit. We need to find our voices and define ourselves in a changing world.
This art was created right after the election by a sixth grade student and shared by @shannoballister on Twitter. Writers got busy writing after the election, as I am sure musicians and other artists are creating as well. Encourage this reflection and creativity in your students. See what they create– it will certainly better us all when they share their work with the world.
Foster protective communities. Right now many students are feeling vulnerable. Children of immigrants, LGBTQ students, muslim families and many others might be feeling unsafe and scared. Make sure to take the time to look out for these students. Give them extra love and support. Let them know you see and hear them.
Trauma informed practices can help students who are suffering from trauma or stress. A new campaign called Changing Minds has created some resources for teachers and families. Some of the practices that build students back up include: listening, celebrating comforting, collaborating, and inspiring students. Simple everyday gestures can help protect students and help them heal from trauma and stress. Teaching Tolerance has a very insightful post about how to talk to kids about this election and the strife it has brought for many.
What are you seeing in the classroom after this election? Teaching Tolerance wants to know. Please help this organization understand what is happening so they can build resources that can help.
Administrators, here’s a post for you about how to help your school through this time and how to respond to a crisis.
This are a few ideas for helping students during this post election time period and beyond. I’d love to hear from you. What has this week been like for you with students in the classroom?
PS- Teachers. Don’t forget about you. Take time to take care of yourselves. Do what makes you relaxed and happy. Your work is even more critical now than ever. We need you.