10 November 2016

What next?

Like many people I know, I have felt fucking terrified since the results of Tuesday's US presidential election were revealed. And that's the nicest way I can think of to say it. I also know that I'm not alone in that feeling. From my friend who had to explain to his son that nothing will happen to his family with two dads...while all the while knowing we have a VP who thinks we can electrocute people straight. To our district ELL coordinator who spent the day reassuring students. To my bff, who is black and has seen so many tenuous steps toward equity. To a teacher who told me today that her daughter doesn't know where it will be safe to go to college given the repudiation of women the vote represents.

Two of my favourite Jennifers (Borgioli Binis and Orr) have recently posted some reflections on the aftermath of the election and moving forward. Orr, as a classroom teacher, keeps her focus exactly where you would hope it would be: supporting students. Borgioli Binis sets the stage for peer-to-peer conversations.

And I am currently pondering the next level in the system: How do we as administrators or district leaders support discourse among staff? I do think it's good for kids to see that we can disagree on some things, but agree on others...that we can engage in healthy conversation. I also think that some of the differences in opinion in this case are so personal and fundamental, so strongly tied to one's own core values, that finding common ground might be impossible.

I had a teacher confide in me today that she felt like the election result was ripping apart her staff. She was horrified that her peers would be so open about anxious they were for the deporting to begin of immigrant families who send students to her school. The truth, of course, is that those opinions were always there working in the classroom next to hers, they just weren't openly expressed. And now she knows things about the adults in her building that she doesn't want to know...and can't set aside. She is too afraid to engage in conversation with them, even though she knows she needs to. She knows that white, protestant, women...like the ones who fill her school...didn't vote for Hillary. To make change in the future, she has to create change in thinking with them.

I wondered how many principals were seeing this in their schools...staffs divided by the results. And yes, I know that elections happen every four years and that there are always winners and losers. But something this time around feels very different. The campaigning was just so vile and ugly by the candidate who won. Were we, as leaders, prepared for the outcome (either way) and how this would affect relationships among our staff? What do we do next to ensure that friendships and collegial efforts stay strong and focused on what's best for kids? How do we help teachers who may have lost trust or respect for their peers (who may not know this) move forward with them?

This is what I'm pondering over the long weekend while I engage in some self-care and think about my own path forward. I am scared that there will not be a light to find in all of this dark.

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