Seven days ago it felt like the whole world was sunshine on a crisp fall day. I voted early in the morning, stood in line longer than I’ve ever waited to vote, tried to keep my “I voted” sticker stuck the rest of the day.
Six days ago I woke up and cried.
And then I went to school.
Teachers and administrators and staff did their best. We talked it through and came up with plans we hadn’t imagined we’d need to make. Students had circles during home room and teachers talked about it in their classrooms as needed. Students got to ask questions. We listened.
Some teachers made promises. “I promise you’re safe here.” “I promise we’ll keep you safe and we won’t let anything happen to you.”
I do not make promises to kids I’m not sure I can keep. I know my students are not safe. They were not safe on November 7th and they are not safe now. The imperative to build a safer world remains. Safer from the guns and drugs around the corner from our school. Safer from ICE agents who send children back to the guns and drugs they tried to escape from. Safer from the people who hate them or don’t understand them or don’t know them. Safer from food and water that poisons them. Safer to ask questions and play games and learn. Safer to pursue their dreams.
Here are a few questions I was asked and the answers I attempted, many of them weak:
1. How did he become president?
If you’re asking me technically, I can answer. Technically he got more points. People in our country voted and more people in some states voted for him so he got more points. Is that what you’re asking?
2. I’m scared?
It is ok to feel scared right now. Why do you feel scared specifically? Is your family scared too?
3. Will we be safe?
I don’t know. But what I do know is that no one can take your brain away from you. Don’t let anyone steal your education because that is yours to keep. Let’s not let anyone waste our time, time we could spend growing your brain.
4. Did you vote for Trump?
Do you have that little faith in me? I don’t support people who say things that are that mean.
5. As a white male teacher how do I support students and hold them accountable?
You have to keep them safe in your classroom. I don’t know exactly but let’s keep them safe as our baseline today.
But I do not promise children that I can keep them safe. What I do promise is that I will not sit idly by as the world turns. I have little faith in the long game, I do not have time to wait for the arc of the moral universe to bend towards justice. If this year of grief has taught me anything, it is that I do not have time to wait.