(This is a post for Slice of Life, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments of our day. You are invited to write, too.)
We were at the end of our staff meeting yesterday, discussing moves to make our school’s behavior management more systematic across the board. The administrators passed out an incident sheet, showing where things happened and how many incidents there were in our school last year. Talk turned to the difficulty of monitoring bus rides.
And then the principal informed us of a recent post-election incident in which a group of students (I teach elementary, so kindergarten through sixth graders) began chanting and shouting “Clinton Sucks” on the bus.
And there it is.
I know the principal and vice-principal dealt with the incident, but as I wrote last week, this election has brought to light, in ways nothing else has before, the political make-up of the small suburban community in which I teach. Nearly half of the voters here went with the new president, and some of the lawn signs during the election season were brazen enough to make me wonder who would put such language on their lawn.
I have this vision in my mind, of all of these very young children smiling, laughing and joining in with the chanting, no doubt caught up in the excitement of the crowd and the moment, and of the thrill of doing something a bit rowdy and unplanned. I can see the bus driver, trying to get the bus quiet. I can see the students who join in but don’t want to join in, for fear of peer pressure. I can feel the disconnect that comes when the energy of the crowd sweeps you up into its arms, even if you don’t want to be there.
The core students who were chanting on the bus no doubt reflect what is being talked about at home, as we all know young children will echo what they hear their parents say and think (at least, for now). I’m afraid to ask if the leaders were my students. I need to ask but I don’t want to know. You know? So much for being a Peacebuilder school in which we daily pledge to be open and kind to others, or having staff using Responsive Classroom techniques as a way to build community that respects all views.
Or maybe, there is only so much we can do in the school to promote tolerance and reasoned argument. I know I need to keep my own students and my own classroom in my sights. But I wonder, how much of our classroom exploration and talk of social justice in the world, as well as topics of racial equity and tolerance and historical imbalance of power, hit a wall when my students go home?
This election continues to drain me.
Peace (everywhere, for everyone),
PS — I would feel exactly the same way if the chanting was reversed, and Trump was the target.
Lots of integrity questions coming up lately- so hard when kids are seeing such unacceptable behaviors modeled for them as mainstream. I loved the song! Peace to you.
We’re all navigating this changed landscape. Thank you for sharing your post. Last Wednesday we had a cluster of fifth grade boys chanting, “Trump, Trump, Trump,” at their lockers, surrounding girls, etc. and I had to debrief that in the classroom. We live in inter sting times.
It will continue to be tough to welcome Trumpworld. I have never been more nervous and the classroom will be a very challenging place to watch the political changes.
So glad you are an educator!!!!
No matter the topic I always felt that my words at the time might have been rejected, but somewhere that child, or those children, will remember what you all are saying about the way to live with kindness and openness. Perhaps now they cannot reject what they hear at home, but they will remember your words someday.
Yes, I am living this in my middle school, too – the challenge of shaping kids to be kinder, and to reach for their better selves.
I’m living in a school world where the children are told not to talk about it at all. There is a medium someplace to make a move towards kindness possible. There has to be or at least I have to believe there is a medium out there waiting to be discovered. Music is a nice start.
Hugs to you, my friend, and courage. It is hard to know how to live in these times. Be kind to yourself– we do the best we can, each moment of each day. You will find your path.
Your slice artfully asks questions many of us have been wondering, Kevin. As a teacher who can’t know where his influence ends, my stance is to strive towards influencing those with whom I work to be thoughtful, curious, positive, and respectful. Most days, there’s failure — and maybe a few encouraging glimmers.
We have also been seeing the aftermath of the election act on on our buses. In a predominately liberal community, a student has been telling his Hispanic classmates that he hopes the wall goes up soon. We teach our students about how to live with understanding, tolerance, acceptance, love, kindness, respect, peace – and then they go home. It takes 10 positives to make up for a negative. No wonder this job is so exhausting!