So, it's 10:10 pm on Election Night. Today has been quite a mix of thoughts and emotions today. Tomorrow, when my students come into the classroom, we will (most likely) have a new president-elect. I'm going to have to figure out how to be as unbiased as I can, even though I feel quite strongly about the candidate that I want to be our next president.
This brought to mind an email conversation that I had with the family member of one of my students several weeks ago. This family member wanted to be very sure that I was not allowing the message that [a candidate] was not a good person to be discussed in the classroom. The family member then went on to explain that his family was in full support of this candidate and his running mate, would support him in all endeavors and hoped that I would do the same.
To which I responded:
Thank you so much for bringing both of these issues to my attention. In regards to the upcoming election, all of the students in my class have been completely fascinated by it. Part of the reason, I know, is because it is something that is very important to a lot of their families and it is a lot of the conversation they hear and are part of nowadays.
As for my own take on the election, when children ask who I am voting for, I tell them that for some people, it's a private choice or a personal opinion.
As a teacher, I'm very aware of the power my words have with the children and I would not want to sway children or make them feel bad if they found out their choice was the same or different than my own, or set up a sort of hierarchy in the class with those that vote one way vs. those that vote the other.
The election will be a part of our upcoming learning; the children will hear about both candidates, and both in positive terms.
Sari did mention to me at the very end of the day on Friday that two of the children had said something about [the candidate] being a bad man and I intervened right away. In our conversations, I have made it clear to all children that the amazing thing about having the right to vote in our country is that everyone gets to make their own decisions. In upcoming conversations, I will be just as clear that, just like we would never tolerate name calling within our classroom, we will not tolerate it related to the election and the candidates involved.
So, I have more to say in relation to this. Partly because I wonder if the family member would have been as concerned that the opposing candidate was given the same treatment in the classroom (I'll assume they would have), but also because in telling me this, my dual/precarious role as teacher came into full view again.
I am constantly aware of the power of my words. I can wound with a simple statement or word or look, and I can influence my children both intentionally and unknowingly.
This also brought up for me an examination of the things that I choose to be as deliberately unbiased as I can (ie, the election), versus ways in which I'm quite sure I'm letting my own views come through (recycling, the way we speak to each other).
I wonder -- and this is a question to teachers, friends, and parents alike -- how do you make choices about where you will let your biases show through and where to work to even them out?