11/15/2016

After the election: Ways to support students

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The vote may be over, but the post-election aftershocks continue in our nation's schools, where many teachers and staff report a resurgence of fear, tension and actions that appear to amplify a message of hate and intolerance in schools.

"The majority of students I work with are students of color, some whose parents were not born in this country and some who were not born here themselves," a Title I teacher in Colorado writes. "To look them in the eye and tell them that they will be safe was one of the hardest things I've had to do because, in reality, I don't know that."

students at desks

At a United Federation of Teachers delegate assembly meeting held in New York City just one day after the election, school building leaders shared powerful and heartbreaking stories about that difficult first day back: the 11th-grader sure that her dream of going to college died on Election Day, when her parents had started talking about moving back to their home country; the third-grader who was certain that World War III was coming. "We are going to face some of the greatest challenges that this union and its members have ever faced," UFT President and AFT Vice President Michael Mulgrew wrote to members following the meeting. "We must keep moving forward. Our families, our students and the communities we serve are depending on us."

That work is already beginning. The AFT's Share My Lesson is working in concert with partner groups to roll out a collection of resources and lesson plans that can help frontline educators tackle post-election challenges, promote frank dialogue with students and families, and safeguard a tone of civility and mutual respect in the classroom.

The resources in this new collection feature a lesson from the Anti-Defamation League that can help students reflect on their thoughts and feelings—as well as those of their classmates—and express those sentiments in a letter to the president-elect. Partner Colorín Colorado is providing post-election information, activities and advice for educators and Spanish-speaking families of English language learners. A lesson from the Global Oneness Project showcases the values that contribute to a healthy democracy, and Teach Immigration details an outreach project and lesson plan focusing on the immigration community. The collection also contains rebroadcasts of a webinar on anti-bullying strategies, resources from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation and much more—with new materials added each week.

This collection is constantly expanding and evolving to meet the needs identified by educators in the field. AFT members and locals are encouraged to contribute lessons and materials that can be effective post-election supports in classrooms, schools and communities. Just register, log in and upload—you'll be helping colleagues across the country who face similar challenges and opportunities.

[Mike Rose]