To the Teacher
The presidential election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, comes at a delicate moment for our country. During this extremely contentious and consequential election, we are also experiencing the Covid pandemic, a racial reckoning, a climate crisis, and, in our schools and homes, the challenges of remote learning. All this has caused a storm of uncertainty within our communities that deeply affects our students.
During this week, students will come to school (virtually or face-to-face) with a diversity of feelings, emotions, needs, questions, fears, and confusions. Of course, we adults also have a range of feelings and thoughts around the election. As educators, we can ask ourselves: “How can I prepare myself to have meaningful conversations with my students about the election that will allow them to be seen and heard? How can I support them, rather than meeting them with silence, as this historic moment unfolds?”
The moment is, of course, full of uncertainty. But no matter the outcome, much will be determined by how we address this election as a society – and within our schools. Over the coming days, we will share ideas and resources to facilitate conversations with students during this unprecedented moment. These resources will include:
- self-care practices for our students
- a short description of where we are with the election
- relevant facilitation questions about the election
- additional pertinent resources
Preparing for the Conversation
1. Prepare yourself
Before stepping into the conversation with your students, check in with yourself to ensure that you are prepared to show up with presence and integrity. Talking with students about the election may impact you differently than others, depending on your multiple identities and background, and your students’ identities as well. For you as the educator, self-care is essential for having courageous conversations without being triggered, while preserving integrity and boundaries.
2. Set a supportive tone and discuss community agreements
This election has been contentious and polarizing for our entire country, and students will be coming to school with a spectrum of emotions. Acknowledge that each of your students will respond differently to the outcome of the election. For BIPOC and undocumented students, the election may bring up especially strong feelings and deep concerns. It is critical to create an inclusive container within your class that welcomes and affirms everyone for who they are, especially those who have been historically marginalized. To ensure this kind of classroom climate, be sure to revisit your class’s community agreements to set the tone for the week and ensure that all students feel they are welcome and belong. See these additional guidelines for discussing upsetting issues.
3. Encourage student self-care to manage these uncertain times
The presidential election, along with the pandemic, police killings, struggles with remote learning, and other challenges have taken an immense toll on our students this past year. This is the most unsettling time we have experienced in recent history. As educators, it is critical to educate students about importance of self-care practices to manage hardship and uncertainty during these times. We will suggest self-care practices you can introduce to students. See our previous activities on self-care as well, along with this lesson on joy.
4. Pause to acknowledge the moment
It is critical that our students have the opportunity to participate in inclusive conversations about the election. During these conversations, we adults need to model social and emotional (SEL) skills and be responsive to the feelings and values of all our students – including those whose perspectives might be different from our own. We can support our students by giving space for them to share their spectrum of emotions, perspectives, concerns, and questions, while practicing SEL skills.
2020 has been an emotional rollercoaster. As educators, it is our responsibility to help our students navigate these uncertain times by pausing to hear and honor students’ voices around the election and its impact on their lives.