Morning after the election. A colleague (Hi Joe!) is observing and I prepare them for all the things that might happen with the kiddos.
I do not prepare him for the former student (now a 12th grader) who runs in at about 8:20, shouting “This is a protest! We’re all walking out!” Lots of confusion. Someone asks the student to translate into Spanish (this is what happens with 9th and 10th graders). There are lots of questions. “Can I go to my locker?” “Can I go to the bathroom?” (“It’s a walkout,” I want to say)
After the majority of the school walks out, our team of teachers moves into one classroom. I take my prep (and will be the only teacher from our team to do so during the day, guilty sigh) and work with my planning partner to finish homework and prepare for the next part of the project.
Back in class, the other teachers have prepared the kiddos to do a community circle, in hopes of building empathy and understanding what other students are going through and why some kiddos are protesting and what they are protesting. (I check Twitter every once in a while and watch the stream of kiddos progressing towards City Hall. Friends who are visiting the city will confirm that they also saw the stream of kiddos)
I end up in the Spanish speaking group. Kiddos hit on the nuances of being born in the United States versus elsewhere (all American, but they don’t quite know the term to differentiate them. I think we settle on “resident”) and why people voted for Trump (“jobs,” they decide on). One kiddo speaks of his country as “having the resources, but not the organization to make it work. The rich want to get richer.” (Heavily paraphrased and translated from the Spanish). At least 2 other kiddos talk about violence from the maras (gangs) in their home countries and how much violence could be inflicted on a family if one person insists on trying to be independent and do the right thing. I am reminded of how much more some of our kiddos will speak if they are in homogenous groups where everyone speaks their language.
The groups come back together and speak and listen. It feels successful. Even with most of the morning, I wish we had more time.
After lunch, kiddos start trickling back. “We realized it wasn’t a field trip,” they say. “We didn’t understand what was happening. We didn’t want the school to call our families.”(The District has already called home; most families ignore the call or don’t understand it since it comes through in English) One of the more experienced does a community circle with them to help them process. (It ends up being a lot of “But we didn’t understand!”) I am torn between saying “Well, you walked out, and sometimes there are consequences” and saying “Consequences don’t matter! You made yourself heard!” I imagine this is what parents of teenagers everywhere feel like on a daily basis.
When I come back, another teacher is helping them write their Business Plan Project essays by doing a participation quiz (lots of positive narration and awarding points to people who are writing and working).
Photo: Reflections from the first community circle, right after the protest.