Disbelief. Anger. Dismay, disappointment. Fear. Anxiety. Deep sadness. These are the feelings many teachers in my school and I were feeling (are feeling) in the aftermath of November 8's astounding election results.
I find myself turning to writing to process and debrief. Until now, I have literally been unable to focus enough to blog. Throughout the work day yesterday, I went through pretty much every stage of the grieving process, as I'm sure many of my coworkers did.
Luckily, I work in a place where the response yesterday was amazing: a heartfelt, reassuring letter from the superintendent to all the families in our district, a warm letter to the faculty at school, lots of concern for students, and many, many check-ins among teachers. Teachers thoughtfully processed the events with their students in safe, nonjudgmental ways. Students participated in civil, mature discussions. It was heartening.
My heart broke when soon after the first bell in the morning, a student - I'll call her Mireya - was brought to me in tears. One of her teachers allowed her and other students the time and space to write about how they felt without needing to share with anyone. I knew Mireya's background and family and understood immediately why she would be upset. She told me that her mom had woken up very early, and was crying and upset, and Mireya was worried about her. They had moved from a Latin American country 4 years ago, with the same dream many as many other immigrants: find work, , escape violence and poverty, create a better life for the kids.
Mireya is a smart and hardworking student who I often call my "TA"; she helps me with everything in class. I literally would confidently leave her in charge of the class if I could. Seeing her so sad and scared made me realize how real and terrifying the outcome of this election is and will be for so many people in different ways.
I hugged Mireya and tried to think of what to tell her that would make her feel safe. So, I told her that her community supports her, and will stand up for her. I told her that her teachers love her, and that I love her. I told her that it will take many months before any concrete actions will happen that force her family to leave. She apologized for crying; I told her that she never has to say sorry for crying, and that she didn't always have to be so strong. Her relief was palpable.
I sent Mireya back to class, and a little later, I called Mireya's mom. She was also upset but trying to hold it together. When I explained to her that Mireya had been with me and was scared and nervous, she broke down as well. My heart broke for her. Through her tears on the other end, she thanked me for the school's care of Mireya. She said that if it were for her only, the results of the election wouldn't matter so much - but it was all about the kids. They had come here for the kids. They had settled in our little town, and finally felt safe and welcome.
I tried my best to console her. I repeated everything I had said to her daughter. I told her we'd be talking about the election in class, and even possibly writing letters to the next president to express how they feel and take some constructive action. I tried to make her feel like she could feel safe in our town again.By the end of our conversation, her voice sounded more calm. She thanked me again for calling and for taking care of Mireya.
These are the after effects that we, teachers, will be dealing with - the students who are not documented, students whose families are comprised of LBGTQ or who are themselves LGBTQ, students of color, and poor students.
Here are some resources I will be turning to in the next few weeks to help my students process, understand, and take action - maybe they can be helpful for you as well. Please add resources you like in the comments!