The Morning After - National Council of Teachers of English
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The Morning After

This is a guest post written by Kathryn McCalla. 

kathrynmccallaGetting only about two hours of sleep allows a person more conscious time to process things overnight. Such was my experience in the early hours of Wednesday, November 9th. A pressing thought came to mind: What do I say to the students?

I am very aware that each of my classes has Hillary and Trump supporters and my intent wasn’t to get into a political discussion, but because of some of the language used during the campaign, I felt I had to let students know that bullying is never okay.

I did not open it up to discussion. I simply stated that we are better than what we have heard these past several months—that in these walls, in these halls, in this community, we protect each other. We stand up for each other. We are loyal to each other, no matter our race, sexual orientation, background, political, or religious beliefs.

My students were very quiet. Some had heads down. Some looked a little in shock. Some nodded. Some wept. And yes, some rolled their eyes.

Thankfully, our class is nearing the end of a unit reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Also thankfully, my wonderful colleague Alex Stacy had sent me a TED video to show: Elizabeth Lesser’s “Take the ‘Other’ to Lunch.” It advises us to get to know someone we see as the “other,” to hopefully have our eyes opened, our hearts softened, even if just a little bit. After watching, students wrote about what may have happened had Ponyboy (a Greaser) had taken Bob (a Soc) to lunch before the fight that culminated in Bob’s death. They envisioned better, brighter things in their journals: an end to fighting, lives saved, friendships formed. We were able to move on from there.

Feeling sad, or angry, or worried at this point can’t get in the way of being a teacher. It cannot, and it will not, get in the way of doing what’s right.

Kathryn McCalla is a middle school ELA and Leadership teacher working in Chelsea, Michigan.