President-elect Trump. That’s our reality. I’m not going to talk to you about how we got here. Others have done plenty of that since the election. I’m not going to project what will happen next. I don’t have any great insight into the mind of President-elect Trump or his people. Nor do I think you can count on campaign slogans becoming reality for any candidate (case in point: Trump said he will get rid of the Common Core standards, but those are up to the states—no federal-level official enacted them or can get rid of them). What I want to focus on is what we, as teachers, can do now. It’s been a
rough month for many of us, and we’re still processing the results in our classrooms, hallways and teachers’ lounges. So here are four strategies to help you keep those conversations supportive and productive.
Focus on those who feel most vulnerable.
Let’s remind our students that we are adults and as adults it is our job to protect them. This means we will protect them from bullies in our classrooms and our communities.
Then we must follow that up with action. Don’t let inappropriate comments go unanswered. Take the time to remind students what your expectations are for respect and then uphold those standards in your classroom.
Encourage open conversations.
Create a space for your students to talk and for you to listen.
Teaching Tolerance is always full of great resources and the The Day After is just one example of how to create safe space in your classroom.
Remember, it’s not just our students who are worried. We have colleagues who may also be feeling very vulnerable. Don’t tell people “it will be OK’ or “you shouldn’t feel that way.” Allow them to express their fears and just be a sounding board.
Show that you’re an ally.
Let students and others know that you are an ally by learning from our British friends; I wore a safety pin on my jacket after the election as a visible reminder that I will listen and protect others. Some teachers could for instance post a safety pin picture on their classroom door.
Seek truth, teach truth.
Make sure your information sources are accurate before you reference them. There is a lot of trash journalism out there purporting to be news that is really just propaganda—on both sides! Check Snopes.com or others sources to determine validity.
Use this as a tremendous teaching opportunity. Have students research historical movements and how they brought about change. Offer project-based learning lessons that provide an opportunity to give back to the community. Structure conversations that require students to look deeply at how we arrived at this point and what they can do moving forward. Develop your own Secret Kindness Agents to foster compassion.
I had my moment just after the election when I told my husband I didn’t think I could ever say the words “President Trump.” But there are people I know and love who are not racist or “deplorable” who are pleased with the election results. I know still others who didn’t feel they could vote for either candidate or who held their nose and voted. As teachers, we can make our classrooms safe spaces for all these points of view. Let’s model for others how to handle adversity.
Maddie Fennell, NBCT, has been an elementary teacher in the Omaha Public Schools for 27 years, teaching in first, fourth and sixth grades and mentoring her peers as a literacy coach. She was honored as the Nebraska Teacher of the Year in 2007. This year she is on special assignment to the National Education Association as a Teacher Fellow. Prior to this position, Maddie completed a three-year ...