Facing Fear Together

Back on November 10th I wrote about teaching in the wake of the presidential election. It was a difficult day that had been preceded by difficult days and was followed by more difficult days. The one positive that stands out to me in retrospect is that we were a strong community in our classroom and school by that time.

Last year’s students the week of the election.

Right now, we’ve all been together for five days. We’re still figuring each other out. What do we all like and dislike? What frustrates us? What makes us smile? Can we trust each other?

I’m worried about going back to school tomorrow, back to my new group of third graders (although I knew and worked with about half of them in kindergarten so we have more basis for trust than normal at this point).

I do not know if my students (the ones born outside of this country) and their parents have papers. I’m sure some do and some don’t. My feelings about them are not impacted by that information. But their emotions, especially right now, probably are. With the expectation that Trump will announce tomorrow that he is ending DACA, he is making an unequivocal statement that our government is currently attacking immigrants.

In an ideal world my third graders would have the opportunity to be children. They would be able to play and read and learn without fear. For some of them, that may be their reality. Either because they and their families aren’t impacted by the current policies around immigration issues or because their families have worked hard to keep them from the stress and fear. For many of my kiddos, however, this won’t be true. Even if their families are working to shield them from the anxiety they are feeling, children are perceptive. They hear more than we realize. They feel the tension. They may not fully understand what is going on but they are likely to feel the fear.

I will head to school tomorrow more strongly hanging on to the idea that my students must see our school and our classroom as places of safety and love. I will be open to hearing their fears and worries, whether spoken or not. I will be there to reassure them that they are safe, at least at school. I will be there to remind them that people love and care for them and for their families and will fight for them. I cannot promise them everything will work out fine. And I won’t try. But I will go in fiercely loving them all.

I will also, if this announcement is made, be ready to start making phone calls. My senators will both hear from me as will my representative. As all three are Democrats my goals will be to push them to speak frequently and loudly in support of immigrants as well as to push and support any legislation possible. It’s not much. It feels weak. But if we all speak up together we can make a difference for these families.

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