After the Election: A To-Do List
Since the election results were announced, I haven’t mentioned them in any public forum. I was too overwhelmed, and I didn’t want to muddy the waters here; I wanted to stay focused on teaching.
But everywhere I look, the waters are plenty muddy. Over the past five days, the pain I’m hearing in the voices of friends, family members, and total strangers online, the acts of hate and violence I’m seeing on the news, they’re not letting up. And not using this platform to share my thoughts would be cowardly. It would be lazy. It would also be a wasted opportunity: Most of my readers are educators, people who will shape the next generation. So if I can influence those teachers in any way, I have a responsibility to give it my best shot.
I’d like to propose a few ideas for things educators can do to move us forward in a way that’s healing and productive.
Let me be clear: I’m not talking about moving ON, dismissing what has happened, or “getting over it.” I have seen too much heartbreak, confusion and fear this week—on both sides—to suggest we move on. I’m talking about forward motion, the work we have ahead of us.
What Teachers Can Do Now
Although this list is directed at teachers, I believe it’s also relevant for parents and anyone else who works with children, teens, or college students. In some places, I have provided links to good resources that can help. If you have other suggestions, please let me know in the comments.
1. Keep building relationships with and between your students.
If this election has taught us anything, it’s that a whole lot of us don’t trust each other. This division pushes us more deeply into our own corners, which only exacerbates the problem. The more we can do to make our classrooms places where real people know and trust one another, where we learn each other’s stories and uncover the things we have in common, the better we’ll get at embracing our differences.
So look for opportunities to build these relationships: On days when you can opt to show a video or play a game, go with the game. If a student seems troubled, but you’re busy, try to find five minutes to talk to him anyway. When you have extra time at the end of a class period, chat with students instead of catching up on email. All those little moments will add up.
Here are a few other resources from this site that can help:
2. Practice and teach respectful disagreement.
We have to learn new ways of talking with people who disagree with us. The skills are nothing new, but so many of us are completely out of practice when it comes to thoughtful discourse. It can be taught. And we need to provide students with plenty of practice in speaking honestly about their opinions without being insulting.
These resources would be a good place to start:
Respectful TalkThis Teaching Channel video shows how one teacher works with her students on having calm, respectful conversations with clear discussion guidelines and support materials.
The Big List of Class Discussion StrategiesAny of the activities on this list will give students practice in healthy discourse.
3. Strengthen your approach to bullying, racism, and other acts of hate.
Recent acts of violence and hate scare me to death, and those are just the ones that made the news. Obviously, this is a bigger problem than I can handle in a single bullet point, but these two resources struck me as worth sharing, because each one addresses the problem from an angle I don’t often see.
5 Ways to Disrupt RacismAlthough the strategies presented in this video are intended for acts of racism, they would be just as effective in any situation where a bystander witnesses an act of aggression or bullying.
How to Develop a School Culture that Helps Curb BullyingThis article approaches the problem of bullying holistically. It explains why zero-tolerance policies are After the Election: A To-Do List | Cult of Pedagogy: