To the Teacher
The 2020 presidential election has created turmoil, which has divided our country and has been emotionally exhausting. At this moment, there is uncertainty who will be the President of the United States for the next four years. As many experts predicted, due to pandemic millions of American voted early or by mail this year, so it will take time to count all of the ballots, including in "battleground" states.
Students are going to show up on Wednesday with feelings of fatigue, confusion, questions, disbelief, and fearfulness. Students will need to have the opportunity to be listened to, so allow students to feel what they feel. It is also critical to recognize their strengths. Some students might need to talk about the impact of the election, while others might not.
For this reason, this suggested activity begins with a listening activity to provide students with the opportunity to share thoughts and feelings around the election. This listening activity will give you a chance to get a sense of the social and emotional needs of your students. Then the lesson transitions into a reflection on the news from the Election Day.
The next segment of the lesson provides a list of short self-care practices to address the diverse needs of your students during these uncertain times. Considering the weight of this historical moment, you might want to have short self-care practices throughout the day opposed to one in depth lesson to give students a chance to check in with themselves and process emotions as they arise.
Share with students that this presidential election has created turmoil, which has divided our country. Many of us are feeling emotionally exhausted. At the moment, it is still uncertain who will the president of the United States for the next four years.
As many experts predicted, due to the pandemic millions of Americans voted early or by mail this year. So it will take time to count all of the ballots. This is completely normal and part of the democratic process. Today we will do a listening activity to share our thoughts and feelings, reflect on the news, and practice some ways to take care of ourselves.
Begin by checking the agenda.
Revisit the class’s community agreements to set the tone for the day.
Ask students to journal for five minutes in response to these questions:
- What feeling are coming up for you during this historical moment?
- What questions do you have about this historical moment?
Taking a Pause to Listen
Tell students that today, we’ll take a pause to listen. Through this process, we’ll have an opportunity to say what we are thinking and feeling about the uncertainty of this moment. Each person will have a chance to speak and to listen, without being interrupted.
It is not a time for discussion or dialogue, and you are not responding to what other people say.
Rather, each person will be invited to speak in response to a question or prompt. When a person is speaking, everyone else should listen only and not interrupt. The intention is not to listen in order to reply, but to listen in order to understand – which is a rarity during this election. Our goal is to listen carefully to what everyone is feeling without getting into a heated political conversation.
Each person will have a minute to share their thoughts and feelings – or to pass. The “taking pause to listen” process is over after every person has had at least one chance to speak.
Note to the teacher: If you are facilitating this lesson online, you might want to post the order of who will go first, second, and so on in the chat box.
On the day after Election Day 2020, there is a lot of information in the media around the first results of the election. This flood of information can create confusion and provoke strong emotions. Try not to feel discouraged by this moment, and remember that sometimes taking in too much media can increase our anxiety.
Now we are going to take a look at what happened in the news on Election Day, and share the bullet points below with your students:
- As of Wednesday morning, November 4, there is no clear winner in the 2020 presidential election. There are still millions of ballots being counted in battle states, which is normal. Here is a video that explains why we won’t know who wins on election night: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JN84L7w0DLA
- As many experts predicted, due to pandemic, millions of Americans voted early or by mail this year, so it might take hours or days to count all the ballots.
- The battle for the presidency has come down to a couple of northern states – currently, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, as well Arizona, Nevada and Georgia. The counting of ballots continues.
- The U.S. has had it highest voter turnout in more than a century.
- Donald Trump and Joe Biden are battling for electoral votes. Each candidate is still shy of the 270 electoral votes to win the election: Biden has 227 electoral votes and Trump has 213 electoral votes. Here is an 8-minute video by Vox that explains the Electoral College process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajavsMbCapY&t=1s
- What feelings are coming up for you after the news briefing and video?
- What concerns do you have about this moment?
- What questions do you have about the election?
Ask students to share one thing that they can do take care of themselves and others, or to remain patient during the complicated moment in history.
Below are some self-care practices that you and your students can build into the schedule throughout the day/week.
Self-Care Suggestions for Students
Have students develop a self-care plan
To prepare for the spectrum of emotions that will arise during (and beyond) Election Week, students can develop a self-care plan. Therapy for Black Girls developed a list of relevant questions, which was in yesterday’s TeachableMoment lesson. It is an effective tool for preparing for the impact of the election.
To help them let go of agitating thoughts around the election, ask students to journal for 10 minutes about whatever is on their mind. Be sure to mention that this journal is for them and the content won’t be shared.
Listen to calming music
To practice self-care, play calming music throughout the day, which can be an effective tool for reducing stress and can have a positive visceral effect. Some music can be used a form of meditation and can inspire the mind to slow down. Alternatively, play some upbeat or positive music that can improve students' mood. Decide on songs that might be relevant for your students.
To practice self-care, facilitate a guided meditation with your students to help them stay present with challenging feelings - without analyzing or suppressing them. Meditation is an effective tool in reducing stress and anxiety. Here is a guided meditation that focuses on the body, have students sit down in a comfortable chair, ask them to close their eyes if they feel comfortable, then ask them to release the tension in their shoulders and unclench their jaw, after that have them scan their body and notice where they feel tension and release the tension on each exhale.
See additional strategies for using the breath for self-care in this lesson by Marieke van Woerkom. Or try Marieke's mindfulness moment exercise below.
Introduce a mindful breathing activity to center students and transition them into the circle space. Read the following meditation out loud ... slowly ... pausing at the end of each line ...
Get comfortable in your seat.
Sit up straight.
Put both feet down, soles connecting to the floor.
Rest your hands in your lap.
If comfortable for you, close your eyes, or, if you prefer, find a spot on the floor in front of you to gently rest your gaze.
Sit strong like a mountain, tall like a large tree.
Image there’s an invisible thread attached to the top of your head, gently pulling you up, stretching you out.
Allow your shoulders to drop.
Take a few moments to notice how your body feels.
Check in with yourself as you bring your attention to your breath.
Notice how the breath flows ... in ... and out ...
There’s no need to change how you breathe.
Your body is the expert. It knows just how. It needs no guidance.
Simply notice each breath coming into the body with the in–breath, and leaving the body with the out–breath.
If you notice your mind is caught up in thoughts or concerns, body sensations or emotions, know that this is normal.
If your attention wanders, as it will, just notice it then return the focus again to your breathing.
Notice the stray thoughts and feelings, but don’t dwell on them.
Simply allow them to pass as you keep coming back to your breath.
Your breath, which continues to flow ... deeply ... calmly ... continuously
Feel your chest and stomach gently rise and fall with each breath.
Take a few more moments to notice how your body feels.
Keeping your eyes closed, notice the sounds around you.
Feel the floor beneath you.
Start to wiggle your toes.
Loosen your head by shaking it slightly.
Shrug your shoulders.
Bring your attention back to your surroundings.
Open your eyes and get adjusted to the light.
Straighten out your legs, and stretch your arms and legs gently as you come back into the room.
Check in with yourself.
How are you feeling?
Use art as a form of creative expression to help students release complicated emotions around the election. Having students draw a picture of how they are feeling can be an alternative way to express emotions, in particular for students who are more introverted or appreciate artistic expression.
- Take a dance break
- Take a walk
- Limit social media intake
- Turn off the news
- Eat food that brings you comfort
- Find a soothing distraction, create a list of movies, podcasts, songs
- Make a feel-good playlist
- Connect with your friends
Election Information Resources
Tight Battle in Key States:
Election Live Updates: With Votes Still Being Counted, an Anxious Nation Awaits a Winner
Why We May Not Know Who Wins On Election Night | NPR Politics
The Electoral College, explained