The past two days have been challenging. Yesterday (November 9) was the most intellectually and emotionally draining day I have had in my fifteen-year career as a high school teacher. I’ve talked about the presidential and mid-term elections with my students since 2004, but what I saw yesterday was unlike anything I had seen the day after any of the previous elections.
Let me first say that I am a proud liberal. A social democrat. A progressive humanitarian. You get the picture. So yes, I am disappointed with the election results. I understand that people have different views on the best ways to govern, and I can respect conservatives like Rep. Paul Ryan who truly believe in small government and the policies that go along with that approach. I cannot respect, however, a candidate who promotes hate, bigotry, xenophobia, Islamophobia, intolerance, racism, and rape culture.
Given the makeup of the student body at my school, I figured that students (and even staff) would need to process the results of the election on Wednesday. As such, I offered my room as a safe place for anybody to come and talk about whatever they felt like. I talked with confused students, concerned students, crying students, and colleagues who felt the same. I asked students basic questions like “How are you?” “Are you okay?” and “What’s on your mind?” while trying to comfort them and assuage their fears. Most of all, I wanted them to feel safe. Here are a just few of their concerns:
- Worry that their family or friends will be deported
- Worry that their family or friends will have to wear badges identifying them as Muslims
- Worry that they will be attacked because they are part of the LGBQT community
- Worry that their reproductive health rights will be taken away
- Worry that they will be more susceptible to rape
I almost threw up.
Of course, I also had to teach the rest of the day. Thankfully, I had my two classes on government and politics, so discussing the results was built into my schedule. It was still difficult. My student teacher and I did our best to keep the conversation fair and balanced, while making sure voices were not stifled and students felt safe. (I should mention that my student teacher did an amazing job. He’s going to be a tremendous asset to whichever school he lands a job in.)
When the school day ended we had a faculty meeting to discuss the school climate. Some of my colleagues cried and shared stories of the hate speech used by our students towards other students. In our school. In. My. School.
I felt disheartened.
I felt broken.
By the time I got home, I was drained. I managed to put an abbreviated version of this on Facebook, but it didn’t help. Even before I went to bed last night I still felt on the verge of tears.
I followed up today with students, checking to see how they were doing and letting them know I was still here for them. For the most part, however, it was back to business as usual. Nonetheless, my heart still aches for my students.
I am here for you.
Thanks for reading.