As I think back on the first 100 days of the Trump presidency, the word that keeps coming to mind is: challenging. Sometimes it feels like the usual Tuesday kind of challenging when you work to bring an energy and consistency to your kids that feels difficult, especially in May. But, more so now, it’s a different kind of Tuesday. From the American Revolution gallery walk where a student writes “TRUMP” next to a picture of King George III, to the angry emails about the Dakota Access Pipeline bulletin board, students and families have continued to process the first one hundred days of Trump’s presidency. I understand that as an educator my politics don’t have a place in our classroom. But I know that standing up to bullying and hate does have a place in our classroom. And so do my students’ voices and concerns.
Students have continued to share questions they have about what’s happening in the world around them. During Read Aloud they ask if one of the main characters in our book, Rules, would have been made fun of by Trump because the character is a boy with Autism. When we read and study the poetry of Phillis Wheatley and George Moses Horton we talk about what people throughout history have done when a law is not just. They want to know, “What about now? What do people do now?”
Although during the first few weeks of this presidency there were moments every day when students asked questions about what they were hearing and seeing on the news, they ask less now. One of my students recently wrote me a post-it note after I’d lost the last bit of patience I had, asking me to be a little nicer because he “was full of sadness.” I thought a lot about his sadness, knowing that it was probably coming from a lot of different places–typical fourth grade places. I also thought about the sadness and worry he might have being the only Muslim student in our class, listening to a president, country and world that maligns his religion and heritage.
The balance between engaging in conversations about events and policies that affect students and not wanting to add to students’ anxieties is challenging. Sometimes I ask if there’s anything in the news they want to talk about. Sometimes I don’t, worried that they’re already hearing so much that maybe they just need a safe space to worry about how to multiply fractions. I know that students have felt the challenges of these 100 days, even if they say less now. But, I’m committed to creating a community with them that has space for their voices when they worry, their questions when they want to find ways to fight back, and sometimes just a corner in which to do some extra math.
By Trilce Marquez