Today was rough. A student came into my class and declared “I’m not talking to white people today.” She’s right to be frustrated.
I spent my time this morning and today writing a letter to my students:
Last night Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States. Many of you have expressed frustration and disappointment with this decision. While I cannot control what happens beyond the doors of this classroom, I can tell you that there will be no change in expectations in this classroom: you should feel respected and heard whenever you are here.
To my students who are Mexican-American: Your family’s history and culture will not be pre-judged, vilified, or rejected in this classroom. Speech that discriminates against you, or anyone else, has not, and will never be, acceptable in this classroom.
To my students who are women: In this classroom, you have the right to be treated as a person, not an object. If someone violates you, you have the right for your voice to be heard and trusted.
To my students with bodies: In this classroom, your bodies are yours – they are unique and personal to you. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
To my students entering the armed service: Your respect and dedication to this country are appreciated in this classroom. The sacrifice you have volunteered to make is unique, courageous, and not for sale.
To my students with disabilities: In this classroom, you will not be mocked or judged for who you are. Your dignity and identity are important and appreciated.
To my students who pay taxes: Your decision to apply your hard work to support America’s military, veterans, and schools is both patriotic and smart. You have a right to know where your money is going; register to vote, get involved in local elections, and elect local officials who have your community’s best interest in their rhetoric.
To my students who are immigrants: This country was built upon a nation of immigrants, and we will continue to appreciate and be proud of the work we put into it together. No one will move to deport you without first dealing with me and officials at this school
.To my students who are Muslim-American: Your religion, families and your personhood are valued in this classroom. In this classroom, you have the right to express your views, identify with, and be proud of your religious experience regardless of where you come from.
To my students who are black: Your lives do matter, you are not living in hell, and you deserve the same constitutional rights that everyone else in this country enjoys. In this classroom, those rights will be recognized and respected.
To my students who identify as lesbian, gay, queer, bi, or trans: No one in this classroom will discriminate against you based upon your gender expression or sexual orientation., You have the right to use the bathrooms that ascribe to your gender identity and love who you want to love.
To all of my students: Your diverse opinions, identities, and backgrounds are the backbone of what makes America a great country. It is through your education that this country will remain that way. When you are within these walls, we will do everything in our power to keep you safe, make sure you are respected, and that your voice is valued. If ever you feel your rights are violated, I urge you to communicate with a staff member for appropriate action. Our job is to keep you safe and informed. We will continue to perform that duty to the best of our abilities so that long after you have left these walls, your knowledge and diversity can continue to shape these United States into an inclusive and great country.
Marisa, 1st grade teacher, Memphis, Tennessee:
We had a class discussion about the election this morning. Our students have so many questions and fears and concerns. Two students cried. I teared up. My co-teacher and I did our best to answer their questions and assure them they are safe and loved, and now we are focusing our efforts on making change in the world where we can (we are gathering canned foods for families in our community and picking some books to donate to another 1st grade class) and continuing the work of raising 24 world-changing, conscious, confident souls. It is the only path I know to move forward.