Yesterday was a difficult day, in every sense of the word. I went into school feeling devastated and exhausted. Other teachers came into our classroom for hugs. Many of my coworkers were in tears, sharing stories of heartbreaking questions their children asked them that morning. Some were wondering what to do to make sure they or their family members would stay (and feel) safe.
But our students were arriving, whether we were ready or not, so I set up our sign-in prompt for the day. It was the photograph above with the headline: "Ilhan Omar will be nation's first Somali-American legislator." Students wrote thoughts and questions related to the headline as they trickled into the classroom. Later, we watched this video during Morning Meeting. My students responded to the joy and exuberance in the celebrations and especially loved hearing from a fellow ten year old (Omar’s nephew). They were happy to know there was something to celebrate and were excited to hear that a person who is a woman, refugee, immigrant, and Muslim was elected to the Minnesota legislature. I reminded them that even though they are too young to vote, they are never too young to try and make an impact.
Later in the school day, we gave our students time to journal and (hopefully) start to process what was going through their minds. Some wrote poems while others wrote about how the events of the election unfolded for them. Donald Trump winning the presidency goes against everything we teach them. We try to show and tell them: Respect others. Language matters: choose your words carefully. Discrimination dehumanizes ALL of us. Treat people like people.
After journaling, students had the option to read a (kid appropriate) news article about the election on Newsela, continue writing and processing, or read. Some chose to read the news article as all they understood that morning was that the adults in their lives were reacting dramatically to something that happened in the middle of the night. Access to information, honesty, and a calm atmosphere seemed to be what we all needed.
Later, students were given the opportunity to collaboratively create aluminum foil sculptures depicting what it means to care for others. It was a lovely reminder to us (adults) just how young our students are, and an important exercise in working together and caring for each other.
All day, we tried to remind them there is always something to celebrate. Be proud of who are you and what you stand for. Remember the fighters and survivors who came before us. Celebrate and support the people in your life. Whatever happens, you have a voice. Use it wisely.