In the Aftermath

Here’s a post that I wrote to my class post-election. Posting a slightly different, less-class-focused take here:

It’s never easy to be an English teacher in the aftermath of major public events. Teaching is difficult, particularly in swing states where students’ and families’ opinions are so diverse. From what I’ve seen in conversations and reading, this has been an especially difficult election season for teachers around the country as a result of the blunt, aggressive rhetoric leveled at a whole variety of constituencies. Students learn what they see and live (the sociality of language leads us to literally adopt each others’ words over time), and they’ve seen a lot of boundary-pushing by public figures in the past several months. Too many have rejected civil discourse in favor of attack. Reflecting on these emotions in class could become a source of re-affirmation and understanding, or a source of deepening division. Our students have their own strong beliefs and emotion, but new political ascendencies aren’t a mandate to perpetuate violence. This is my small place of common ground. Can we all agree that beating each other up—verbally or physically—doesn’t help anything?

Take care of yourselves and each other first. Respect each others’ right to react with joy or horror. Turn off the internet and the 24-hour news cycle for a little while. Take time to breathe. Get coffee together face-to-face. Go for a walk out under the trees.

Then: In your classrooms this week and next, listen. Resist name-calling. Ask fellow teachers and students about moving through a deeply divisive time. How have they (or you) chosen to address election results or resulting protests and violence in their classrooms, if at all? How have they (or you) helped students to share feelings of sadness, elation, fear, or longing without alienating or abusing each other? Especially for teachers in ideologically-diverse districts, how have they (or you) thought about re-establishing classmates’ ties or reinforcing norms of civil discourse? Most important: How can we protect and empathize with our fellow teachers and students who may be feeling very marginalized in this aftermath?

For now, I’m listening. And resisting with as much peaceful-but-violence-challenging conversation as I can muster. Be well and take care.