Today was tough. Today was a day that was different from the others. Many of you came into class frustrated, angry, listless. Many of you were withdrawn and moody, quiet and defensive. Looking around our circle of learners this morning, I saw a wide range of expressions: fear, anger, sadness. Instead of glossing over this, I made the decision as your teacher instead to listen. To reflect. To spend time with you creating a safe space for contemplation and sharing.
During our Morning Meeting, we went around the circle and shared how we were feeling. No context needed, no responses necessary, just an option to share. “I feel frustrated,” said one of you. “I’m angry,” said another. “I don’t want to share,” said a third. I listened as one by one, you quietly shared your feelings with your fellow community members. I watched as our classroom community listened, related, and nodded.
During writing, I gave you time to do a deeper feelings check-in. I told you that this was a time for self-reflection and to see how you were feeling. I offered for you to share your writing with me or to write anonymously if you preferred. Many of you worked in silence, hunched over your papers, brows furrowed, writing thoughtfully. Many of you chose to share your writing with me, expressing anger, disappointment, and fear about the outcome of the election last night. You wrote down questions and scenarios and wondered about what you thought might happen to your friends, or to your family.
Later in the day, one of you asked to speak with me privately. We stepped into the hall and you began to cry, expressing your worries about the future. “What if I can’t stay here? What if everyone has to go back to where they came from?” I listened to your tearful questions, trying to form answers that were acceptable and appropriate. I did my best to reassure you, to tell you that everything would be alright.
As I watched each of you file out at the end of the day, hugging me as you left, I wondered if you felt any better. I wondered if I had done my part in helping you reflect, in helping you process, in helping you understand. I sat at my desk for awhile, looking around the empty classroom, thinking about what else I could do to help.
My job is to teach you, yes, but my job is also to set an example. We all have different backgrounds, different perceptions, and different opinions. You are already growing so much, seeing so much, and experiencing so much. It amazes me how perceptive you already are in third grade. In light of today, I want to reaffirm my role as your teacher.
So, my students, here are my promises to you.
I promise that when you enter my classroom, you will enter a safe, caring, and warm learning environment that celebrates not only our similarities and connections, but our differences, too.
I promise to ask questions to learn more about the things that matter to you, from the Pokemon cards you covet to the intricate Henna tattoos covering your hands.
I promise to listen as you proudly point on a map what country your mother was born in, or where your grandparents immigrated from.
I promise to see you as more than just the color of your skin, the religion you believe in, or the language you speak.
I promise to do everything in my power to create a safe space for you to share your thinking, your fears, your hopes, and your dreams.
Every day, I will choose you – every one of you.
Every day, I will choose to teach tolerance.
Every day, I will choose to teach acceptance.
Every day, I will choose to teach love.
With you, always,