Election 2016: The Day After

November 9th, 2016.  As is so common at this time of year, weather changes and busy schedules create teacher fatigue and weakened immune systems. As such, I stayed home today in my pajamas in order to get some much-needed rest.

Instead, I found myself glued to the CNN election coverage from the moment I woke up (at 5:00 a.m., like always–go figure).  I was hanging on to the incoming results of each congressional district the same way I hung on to every pitch of World Series game seven last week.  Unfortunately, today’s results didn’t provide me the feelings of relief and jubilation that I experienced for the Cubs. Rather, I sit here dismayed, sad, and wondering what I will say to my students tomorrow.  

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, most Americans will agree that something needs to change in the way politics works in the USA. That sentiment is precisely what led to today’s outcome.  People are angry, frustrated, and feel that their voices aren’t being heard.

But what do I say to those fifth graders I greet tomorrow morning?  When we have our morning meeting where we share and laugh with each other, what will they want to talk about? I have a pretty good idea…but how do I respond?  

During the results coverage, political commentator Van Jones asked, “How do I explain this to my children?” He is certainly not alone in seeking the answer.  Like most teachers, I work to teach my students compassion and integrity.  I guide them to respect and celebrate their differences, rather than frown upon them. I teach them to accept others, embrace mistakes and failures, and live by The Golden Rule. Their emotional growth and well-being, as well as their place in society, are just as important to me as their ability to multiply fractions…if not more so.  But it’s not just me that feels this way; this is why so many of us became teachers.  We don’t do it just to increase students’ knowledge–we do it to impact their lives and enhance their character.

And yet, here we are.  The United States has just elected into power someone who has shown a pattern of bullying behaviors that we would never accept from even our youngest students.  We have elected a person who has spoken unkindly of others based on physical appearances, gender, race and religion. A person who, time and time again, has demonstrated the opposite of the leadership qualities we hope to instill in our students.  

So what do we do?  Well, I am going to start by doing what I do every day: model the same values I aim to teach my students. I am going to treat all of my friends and colleagues with kindness and respect, even if they have different views than me.  I am going to remain positive and believe that the world will keep moving forward, even when it might feel as though we’ve taken a giant step back.  I am going to refrain from arguments with friends on social media.  I will show my students how to demonstrate compassion, use kind words, and be empathetic. I will continue to teach them to question, argue, and defend their positions.  Perhaps most importantly, I will teach them to listen to each other.  It’s time we adults learn to do that as well.

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9 Responses to Election 2016: The Day After

  1. EntireMoon says:

    Since when did you become a Cubs fan?

  2. Mike Henry says:

    I began the day with my 5th grade students by listening to their thoughts. Most of what I heard was clearly a repetition of what they had heard at home. We then discussed that a politicians “reputation” is not always the truth. We talked about how we can take time to listen and question people so we better understand them. Too much of the cacophony of the last 12 months was caused by people shouting their beliefs and opinions. Too little time was spent trying to understand each other. I believe this was the most important lesson learned from this historical presidential election.

  3. Ana says:

    Reading your post and watching thousands of young American people express their sadness over the election process and outcomes brings me a sense of relief. As an outsider, I watched with disbelief and incredible disappointment the image of a nation who was considered to be a reference of tolerance and respect fall apart. I´m sure that with time, good willing people will prevail.

  4. Margot Riemer says:

    Thank you for these words, Shannon! I would add to them something I heard from the artist Judy Chicago, years ago. She addressed our school and ended her speech by saying that we always have a choice between despair and optimism, and that she encourages us always to choose optimism. Also, you are right on when you say that we have to model the change we want to see. I am with you: I am going to force myself to listen to other perspectives and to disagree respectfully. Most of all, I am going to do whatever I can to be good to the people around me. Thank you for your optimistic outlook!

  5. Reaz Shaheed says:

    From a political and perhaps socio-economic stand point I will believe that some times “to take a long leap forward, it is better to accept a step backwards”. Morality, respect and empathy towards a fellow human being will always be the foundation for civilization and teaching the young global citizens in that direction can never be compromised.

  6. Cindy says:

    Thank you for your positive attitude. I can imagine that it would be challenging how to explain to students that someone can be so disrespectful of others and still achieve the highest office in the land, if not the world. The example you are setting for your students, through your words and actions, will teach them the meaning of true leadership.

  7. Cliff Strommen says:

    You might want to tell your students that Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States in a democratic process. As President we should honor and support him and his office just as we have other Presidents. Should we disagree with what he does as President we have the opportunity to vote him from office. We can make no judgments of him until he has assumed the office and started work. At this time, he has not preformed one single task as President. I would not judge him before he has done his work just as I don’t judge you , my students, before you do your work.

  8. Joshua Durey says:

    I for one applaud the system that allowed a candidate to be elected when the entire media was so obviously behind another candidate who is, quite arguably, more dangerous and corrupt than someone who is by comparison uncouth. This says a lot about the power of the people in what was presumed by many to be a rigged system. I would also add that partisanship has no place in the classroom, and if you had previously shown your students why Trump shouldn’t be elected (and are now forced to eat crow), then shame on you for failing to remain objective. This is not the first time in history that politicians have engaged in such divisive and offensive rhetoric (though admittedly this is by no means an excuse for such behavior). This election is the perfect chance to teach about media bias and what can happen in a democracy when people refuse to believe what is being spoonfed to them. One could also highlight patriots like Julian Assange who make information available to the masses in order for the population to make a truly informed choice at the polls. Am I happy with the outcome? Not necessarily (I voted for Johnson), but as teachers we don’t get to be biased and show our disappointments with election results.

  9. Jill Carlson says:

    You tell you students- Hillary Clinton did not deserve to win because she does not have the best intentions for American’s like Donald Trump. Hillary is also a liar, killer and obviously only wanted to run this GREAT NATION we call home in the ground. He may be a little on the rough side with his words but he is going to make America great again.
    I like you, watched into all hours of the night and was very pleased with the outcome. Go America, go TRUMP!

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