I am an assistant principal of an elementary school with students in grades 3, 4 and 5. I am also the mother of two children – a daughter (age 11) and a son (age 9).
My daughter woke up devastated the day after the election when she learned that Donald Trump was our new president. She didn’t share her feelings with me right away – instead she stomped her foot in frustration because she couldn’t get her hair in a ponytail. When I offered to help, she refused, saying I didn’t know how to do it. She spent over fifteen minutes fighting with her hair and then she finally came to me to help her. Once I started helping her she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Mom – Trump can’t be our president.”
At this moment I knew that my reaction could make or break the way my daughter would handle the next four years of politics in the USA. I gave her a quick hug and told her not to worry. I told her Trump ran for president because he wanted what was best for our country. While he wasn’t the one she wanted (she voted in a mock election in school the previous day) things were going to be ok. I reminded her that she was safe and that she was surrounded by good people in her life-family, friends and community. She went off to school feeling a little better.
I went off to school thinking about how I would support students and staff through this day, whether they were overwhelmed with excitement or sadness about the election. After connecting with the guidance team and other administrators, we determined our goal for the day was to help students feel safe and provide them with opportunities to share their feelings. In addition, we recognized the importance of getting students involved in learning tasks with their classmates.
Once the school day was underway, most students went through the day like any other day (almost). A few students made comments to their teachers, and a few others asked to speak to a guidance counselor.
Guidance counselor, Brielle Chadsey, had conversations with students and she relayed that children from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and developmental perspectives connected with her. She outlined the following crucial messages that she shared with students:
- Reassure students that they are safe
- Explain that the President of the United States has a lot of people working with him and advising him
- Continue to talk to grown-ups about things you hear and are wondering about
- It’s important to focus on the positives and doing good things for other people
As for the near future, we will be identifying ways to have a positive impact on others in our school community and beyond. Creating outreach opportunities will help focus our energies on the good that we can do for one another- here’s one example: Student Planning Sheet/Lesson for Helping Others.
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” ― Barack Obama