As we listen to students, parents, school leaders, and teachers share some of their stressors, two things are constant in my mind. First, safety during COVID. Second, the presidential election. As an educator, the third thing that is taking up a lot of mental space is how to respond to students and staff on November 4th (or whatever day the election results are finalized). Either way the result swings, emotions will be running high and teachers will be on the frontlines.
Here are four tips we recommend teachers thinking through before November 4th:
Have a Plan for How To Engage
The tone during this election has led to an unprecedented political experience for students, teachers, parents…actually all Americans. And even though the results of the election are obviously still unknown, this moment can be a time to step back and think about how you’ll engage in your classroom. We also understand that parents may not appreciate or want schools to discuss the election, or politics in general. Taking that into consideration, it’s even more important to have a plan going forward as a teacher. What will you engage with and what will you not discuss? Our last presidential election took many educators by surprise and they weren’t planned to respond to heightened emotions. This year, we have to prepare and make a plan for ourselves and our students for any possible outcome.
- Consider the age of your students in class and reflect on what facts or information they may need to make meaning from the election results. This can be a learning experience for everyone, even young children. Here are a few resources that may help elementary school children:
- PBS: https://tpt.pbslearningmedia.org/collection/election-collection/
- Teaching Tolerance: https://www.tolerance.org/moment/voting-elections
- Scholastic: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/collections/teaching-content/elections/
- NY Times (for older students): https://www.nytimes.com/spotlight/teach-the-2020-election
- Think about your ability and comfort level facilitating a whole-group conversation. If you don’t feel prepared or able to do that, it will probably not create a safe space for students. Think about ways you can create time for independent writing, journaling, or coloring activities that still allow processing time and space but won’t be harmful spaces for students or yourself.
- Consider your own emotions. What will you need personally depending on the outcomes of the election? What is your plan to care for yourself to be able to care for your students? Do you need to put your phone away for the day? Do you need to start your day with calling a trusted friend or loved one to vent? Whatever it is for you, plan to make time for that.
Provide Safe Spaces for Additional Processing
If students need additional processing time or more intentional support after the election, make sure you and your school community have staff members available to help. These students may not be in the mental space to sit in the classroom for the day, but may need more emotional support. Give them that time and respect their need for support, especially if the need is around themselves or a family member feeling unsafe. In any case, there should be space for all student’s feelings and fears to be validated and get their questions answered.
Get a Pulse Check on Your Student Community
For older students, have a pulse check to get a read on where kids are and how you can respond as a school building. Giving students some kind of survey or questionnaire will help you gather big trends so you can respond to whole community needs.
You may think you know what your students, teachers, or families think or want – but you actually may not. If you look at polling data you will see that there are splits across demographics. Create the space to be surprised and check your assumptions on where your students and families may be. As you plan, provide spaces, get a pulse check, and just remember that you may not know where everyone is.
Our constant recommendation is that you TEACH FACTS, FACILITATE FEELINGS AND OPINIONS.
We are here to support you during this time! Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss more!