This week has been a rough one, but not for the reasons you might think. I am an educator and my students are what matter most to me; they are nearest and dearest to my heart. And what I’ve seen in my own classroom this week reflects the ugly, awful mess we find ourselves in.
I watched as my students segregated themselves, called each other names and fought like the talking heads they may see on the news, because they have come to believe that voting for the wrong candidate must mean you are either stupid or evil.
I don’t think either candidate could truly understand the emotional impact the campaigns were having on our children. But here we are. Facebook and Twitter are filled with ugly, indecent posts that highlight the real issue we face in America: a lack of empathy. For the past year, the media has treated politics like a wrestling match, fueling the ratings fire — and we all chose sides. For the last year, WE have continued to divide our country and polarize ourselves from one another. So we only have ourselves to blame.
It is natural to want to point fingers — just like our kids do in the classroom. And it is natural to play the “what if” game in our minds. But elections have consequences no matter who wins. The way we conduct ourselves can honor or stain the democratic process – and those choices can make lifelong impressions on the children who will carry that process into the future.
Let me be clear… I am not sad just because Hillary did not win. Instead, I am struggling internally to understand how as adults we have made it okay to publicly isolate, demean, and mock other Americans with different beliefs, different backgrounds – even those who struggle daily with disabilities. How did we as a nation of adults become the very people we are trying to teach our children not to be? That is what hurts…it is a sadness that many educators are trying to work through.
Stop. Reflect. Lead. Our kids need reason and they need to hear OVER and OVER that no matter who we voted for, and no matter who won, we expect them and others to treat one another with kindness and respect. We can’t change the outcome of this election. What we can do is be more mindful of the example we are setting, to keep from transferring the fear, confusion and lack of empathy that been unleashed in this election to our children.
One of my friends posted something that has resonated with me this week… “Our decisions and our actions have consequences. The best of us accept responsibility; the worst look for others to blame.” I refuse to point fingers. I chose love over hate. I chose light over darkness. I chose to stand ready to fight for what is right for our children. However, I am also willing to try work just as hard to try to understand and show empathy to my fellow Americans. We must practice what we preach. Our children are watching as is the rest of the world. Lead. Love. Act.