What I Told My SeniorsNov 14, 2016
I didn’t realize how unprepared I was for Trump’s election. I had simply not thought that result through. Immediately I began receiving text messages. My father’s words to all of his children will stay with me. I was teary-eyed as I dropped Analiz off at school. I cried a bit when I arrived at my parking spot. Then, I tried to do what I usually do when I’m having a bad day: push it aside and go teach. When I walked into my class full of seniors, they were going back and forth trying to process and make sense of these results that we had for so long laughed and joked about. They were anxious, on the verge of screaming, and confused. I started balling. I lost it. I’ve never cried like that in front of students.
What do you say when you have no words? What does a teacher say to young people when she needs words herself? After listening to them and them giving me tissues, we began to dialogue. Clearly, there would be no English content. Real-life was more important right now. This is what I told my seniors:
1. It might not be okay: I don’t want to sugarcoat it. It’s not my job to make you feel okay. It’s my job to prepare you for what’s out there. You will encounter hate and you will have to face that there are people who don’t like you because of things you cannot control and/or your appearance. While that’s been a truth, we may see a surge and openness around that for a while.
2. You will have to learn to navigate the world intentionally seeking out allies: This is why having opinions and taking stances is critical. This is why indifference is wrong. You will need to figure out how to be safe and that safety will come from allies.
3. Protect yourself next year on college campuses: Many young white millennials voted for Trump. That means that you have a lot of work to do next year. That means that you will also meet many people who don’t necessarily think highly of you. Join the Black Student Union, the Latino organization, the LGBTQ groups and be in places where you are supported and loved. Those will be the spaces that fill your cups.
4. This isn’t about parties: Don’t be fooled by politics and agendas. This is not about feeling sad that your candidate lost. This isn’t about feeling sad that Republicans won. This is about mourning the fact that this man said terrible things about groups of people and voters were okay with it. They chose that voice and those feelings to lead this country. That hurts.
5. Do something: More than ever, it’s important to stand for something and be clear. Show up and stand out. Make your points and listen to others. Engage, debate, and dialogue.
The rest of the day looked like hugs, more talking, confusion, tears, questions, anger, ice cream, and frustration. It was one of the toughest days in my 12 years of working with young people.
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