We have to temper and consider what we say to our children and how we say it. Whether your candidate won or lost, it is important we share the message of politics with tolerance, acceptance and language students can understand. The work we do in school requires a tremendous amount of effort around the social emotional well being of our community. So regardless of your political leanings, we want to send children to school, and out into the community with open hearts and minds. If student's families supported Mr. Trump, its important that we teach them to share their views in ways that are appropriate and sensitive to the demographic makeup of our community. If a child's family supported Mrs. Clinton, its important that they understand we are a safe community and the adults in the school will advocated for all students and ensure they are protected. With this is in place, we do the teaching of community dialogue, listening multiple perspectives and how to engage in meaningful productive conversations.
Here is the text of the email. If you think any it is useful, feel free to pass on to other schools, teachers or administrators.
I think I'm finally going to go to bed. [actually didn't end up falling asleep until about 4:00 am]
Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum our main charge goes undeterred, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the students in our care. If the election results follow the current trajectory, we may very well have woken up with Donald J. Trump as our President-Elect this morning. The immediate implications may be profound for many of our students and families. So let us proceed with attentiveness and understanding for any anxiety and concerns that may arise. I encourage everyone to set aside the time and provide students the forum to discuss, reflect and process what this means to them and their families. Facilitate discussions with care and objectivity and highlight some of the following themes:
- IAA and Burlington are very safe and supportive communities.
- We need to explore, more than ever, the concepts of bullying and the power of our words. When students hear or see public figures engage in negative speech and actions, things we constantly teach them to refrain from, it sends a mixed message. As such, an increased focus on the social curriculum is vitally important.
- Be the Change you want to see. Empower students to think how they can make a difference and support and advocate for one another. A subtext of this conversation is real and meaningful one about race in our society and how we teach children to embrace, support and celebrate all cultures. Another area connected to this conversation is gender. Let us empower the young girls in our community to see themselves as leaders. Put girls in positions to lead often, help them develop a positive sense of self worth and demonstrate how they can be assertive, while at the same time guiding our young boys how to see them as equal partners.
- You probably don't want to go into a deep conversation about the how political process works, but definitely point out that the President ultimately has limited power. There are branches of government, Legislative process and checks and balance that are required to pass laws. Just because one person, even a president, espouses certain ideas, that in no way guarantees these ideas translate to action and laws. This is especially important for our newcomer population that have endured the immigrant experience and our Muslim community members. They have profoundly felt the rhetoric around immigrants over this election cycle that has targeted them and their faith. The reality is some students may feel scared that they are no longer welcome in this country and their friends may carry concern for them. This is a heavy burden for a young mind and heart to comprehend and we have to be able support and process this anxiety.
- In the event that Hillary Clinton is our President-Elect, don't change the discussion. If the divide in this country, as demonstrated by the close nature of these election results tell us anything, it is that we need to have these discussions regardless of who our commander in chief is.
Let me know if I can support or help facilitate any conversations in your class in the coming days or if you feel that we should tackle the topic as a community.
Finally, I preach to my students, staff and community, the idea of assuming good intent. President-elect Trump, whether you agree with him or not, intends to, "make America great." Our constitutional checks and balances paired with, what I assume, is Mr. Trump's desire to leave a positive presidential legacy, will temper and grow his ideas and rhetoric to meet the needs of all Americans. A divided country will not accomplish greatness. As such, I have faith and optimism, that we will move forward in solidarity. For the children we have to keep that hope.