What one Chicago Public Schools teacher will teach after the presidential election

My original plan was to have students examine a few of the Clinton campaign political ads and Saturday Night Live political satire. I wanted them to examine the rhetorical approaches that contributed to Clinton’s win. That’s what I thought would happen when I left school today. But at 12:26 a.m., it looks like Trump is our new president.

My lesson plan must, unfortunately, change.

I could just ignore what happened. But my students will know I’m avoiding it. Avoiding it will make our classroom climate tense.  We always examine the rhetoric of important current events.

My goal: to make sure students who don’t feel validated by the outcome STILL feel their perspectives are valid.

So . . . my new plan, which I’ll have to put together by 8:15 a.m., will be to give students a choice. They’ll have a choice of reading and examining the victory speech OR the concession speech–which I hope Hillary Clinton delivers by the time my first class starts. They’ll figure out what rhetorical approaches the losing candidate or new president attempts to use.

More importantly, knowing what they know of the highly divided context we live in, my students will decide and argue if the approaches work or not.  Somewhere in there, they need to use the complex sentences structures and vocabulary we’ve studied.

We’ve learned there are six basic emotions humans feel: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, surprise. Students will figure out which emotions the speaker attempts to evoke in the nation, in the world that is watching.

After the election results, we know the impact of anger and fear on the presidential campaign.

And that’s all I can do today.

My commitment after this will be to ensure that I protect the safety that I have always worked to protect in my classrooms for twenty-one years.

The racism, sexism, xenophobia the Trump campaign promoted will never have a place in my classroom–it should not have a place in any school. And that’s not being political in the classroom. That’s being a good teacher.

More than I always have–I must ensure that I guarantee a space for multiple perspectives to be heard.  I realize this means there might be more disagreement in my classroom.

I’ll have to figure out how create a space where there can be a multitude of the basic emotions among the growing uncertainty.

I have it good, though. My students generally recognize and accept abusive, offensive language and behavior.  Trump was not a popular candidate at my school.

But I will still emphasize that just because Trump won doing what he’s done–this does not mean that his sexist, racist, xenophobic behavior is acceptable. And THAT’S what I want my students to know.

So maybe, before students examine the speeches, I need to let my students write a letter to the candidate of his or her choice, so they get an opportunity to express whatever emotions they need to.  They can keep this letter to themselves, tear it up and throw it away, or we might snail mail it to the canidate.

I have a lot to decide by 8:15 a.m.  It’s 6:35 now.

I think about how I tell my students that it’s OK to say, “I don’t know.”

So . . . I don’t know what’s going to happen with Trump as president. It’s frightening.

But I’ve learned to focus on what I can control.

What I can do as a teacher is help students develop the academic skills and the self-confidence to speak up when they see injustice.

And to steer away from ignorance when it’s simply not worth it.

That’s all I know how to do.

Somehow, I hope, this will help my students, and me, move forward in incredibly uncertain times.

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