It's over. Our country is reeling from the outcome. Many are celebrating and hoping for great things. Many are plunged into the depths of despair and afraid of what is yet to come. We are in a unique group as teachers. We are all in the same boat - the boat we steer every day - the boat we call a classroom. We still need to face groups of children every day, putting our own views and needs on the back burner. For the school day, we are on stage, and our role is perhaps the most important one ever to be played. The children are witness to history that is happening all around them. What we say and do in the upcoming days is crucial. We have power to shape the world view of our students for years to come.
Our current situation as Americans is so much more than whether our candidate or political party won. People are firmly embedded in one camp or the other in ways we've never seen before. Children are absorbing all that is happening around them. And when they arrive in our classrooms, they are interested in our stance and waiting for our words. In my opinion, it has never been more important to put on a neutral face and to try to love the children through it all.
Something that has always been very therapeutic for me is letter writing. As an under-challenged elementary student, I often finished my work way early and wrote long letters to friends and family about the book I was reading or how I was feeling in a very boring learning situation. I even wrote some to my teachers and never handed them over. Probably should have because I'm sure they were happy with my learning and progress. I was a quiet little thing and never caused them any trouble.
As an almost grownup, I wrote letters to my sweetheart in the army. I filled them with love and sealed them with sealing wax. As a young newlywed, I wrote a letter to my mother-in-law once on how her bad behavior was hurting her son and me. Probably never should have mailed that one. Sigh.
I wrote letters to my children from the tooth fairy, and long letters when they were away at camp.
I currently write letters to various people and institutions for various reasons. I always find the writing itself to be a release and a way to get my emotions back on track. Some get sent and many get shredded. To me, the writing is more important than the sending. It's a personal preference. I try to avoid conflict when I can. This not to say that I stay silent on important issues. I sign petitions and join causes that are meaningful to me. In college, I marched and sat in. I have always stood up and spoken out against injustice.
Yet in my classroom, I have different goals. It's not a political platform; rather a nursery to grow and nurture young minds. Give them a good start and solid knowledge base. Teach them to think critically and to honor their own thoughts and feelings. It's no secret that I've been retired for two years. A week never goes by that does not find me volunteering in some way in a local school or two though. I love staying in touch with former students and with young neighborhood friends. I can clearly see that our young people are looking for a way of making sense of what is happening in our country and are dealing with some complicated feelings. We often have no idea of what they are hearing and facing at home.
As my small contribution to classrooms this week, I have created a free resource to help kids and teachers in dealing with the current unrest. It's letter writing. Letter writing to our outgoing President. Letter writing to the President Elect and also to Secretary Clinton. Letter writing to parents, teachers, or anyone. I offer some template letters and some further topic suggestions. I offer this in color and grayscale to help with printing. Printing isn't even necessary. Project on your board and let the kids write their own.
If you do download and use, I ask that you do not use these letters for assessment in any way. Honor your students' feelings by offering class time for this activity. Allow them to send or dispose of the letters in any way they choose. Show that you respect who they are inside and what they need.
I also would really appreciate some positive feedback left on the product download page to let me and other teachers know how you used this resource and if it has been helpful. What you think is important to me.
Wishing you peace and healing in the days ahead.
For more November Teacher Talk, be sure to visit these great blogs!