Teachers had a uniquely difficult job today: Support students who feel unsafe about the future of our country. Do so with grace and humility while simultaneously dealing with our own feelings of uneasiness and hopelessness.
Based on what I hear my students say on a daily basis, it seems as though their views on the presidential race fell into one of four categories: 1. Trump 2. Hillary 3. Neither 4. Indifferent. This isn’t surprising for high school students in the far north suburbs but it seems important to note that my students’ views fall all over the political spectrum.
I began each of my classes today as I do at the beginning of each trimester: You have my respect because you are a human. My number one job is to keep you safe, and the most important thing that happens in this classroom is kindness.
This isn’t anything new to them and it’s the culture we create in my classroom.
Then I pointed to this on my wall:
This is where my “This is a safe zone” sign used to hang, I say. When I painted the pillar, I had to remove it, and after sticking it back on, the adhesive wore out and it fell into the garbage without my knowledge. But a wall with a sign doesn’t make this room any more safe. We create a culture of kindness and respect and use mathematics as a catalyst. THAT is what makes this a safe zone.
We then had great conversations in both classes: Spirals in college algebra, sampling bias in AP stats. But none of that matters if students don’t feel safe. As a teacher, I’ll do that every day as no part of my job is more important. I’ll continue to fight for access to high level mathematics for all of our students and promote kindness in all of my classes. No one gets to vote on that but me.