I work in an incredibly diverse middle school. Our student body spans 30 different languages, multiple races and ethnicities.
As I watched the election unfold, all I could think about were my students. What was the world going to be like for them if Trump actually won? The next morning I awoke to see that my fears had been realized. Trump would be President and I would face a number of students scared or worried about what had happened. I walked into school and I knew the attitude had changed.
So many of my fellow teachers were avid Clinton supporters and we were all shocked. As I went into the classroom, I prepared for some difficult conversations. One class wanted to talk about it, one class just wanted business as usual, except for a few students.
I talked with these students individually and the most horrifying question I was asked was, “I was born here, but my parents weren’t. Am I going to be separated from my parents?” I didn’t know how to respond. My only response was “It takes a long time for a law to be passed, so we won’t know for awhile.”
In my next class, students really wanted to engage in conversation. I had a student tell me that his family is being torn apart from this election. His aunt and uncle were fighting because one voted for Trump while the other voted for Clinton. The anger and pain in his voice relayed how this country is feeling. Torn apart to the very core. Family members turning on family members. Another student told me that his religion believes that women can’t hold positions of power (he is Mongolian), but he still didn’t want Donald Trump for his President because of all of the bad things he said about Mexicans. He said, “I have friends that are Mexican, and I don’t think that’s okay to say things like that.”
As I went into my prep period, I sat with the reading coach and math coach in their office because I just couldn’t work anymore. We all sat in a somber silence. I had one friend on Facebook liken the feeling to that after 9/11. A feeling of great uncertainty and worry. The reading coach agreed with me. The math coach told me that she had stayed up with her two young daughters on election night. They made popcorn and were all so excited to see a woman elected president. She had to put the girls to bed knowing that it was looking bleak for that dream. Her daughter woke her up at 4 AM saying “Mommy, Mommy, who won?” She said she had no idea how to tell her or how to talk to her about what would be to come in the next four years.
The reading coach and I left and walked down the hallway by the band room to be greeted by four students playing their violins, practicing for orchestra. The amazing thing was that they were all speaking Arabic to each other. It gave me some light of hope at the end of that day. My principal canceled our afternoon meeting and told us all to go home early, as he saw the difficult conversations we had in our classrooms. I walked out of the building and saw one of my fellow teachers. I asked her if she needed a hug. She did. As we hugged, the tears started welling up and we both looked at each other and said, “we’ll get through this.”
I have now seen things unfold that makes me deeply saddened for our country. The hate crimes, the rioting, the arguing. I knew this might happen, regardless of who won, but I didn’t think my fears would be so viscerally expressed.
The thing that made me feel better today was to see all of the different students in the hallway. Groups of students hugged each other, giving high fives, laughing, joking, just like any other day. But the beautiful thing was that it didn’t seem to matter what race or ethnicity they were. I saw Mexican kids hugging asian kids. White kids joking with black kids. I heard kids speaking Spanish and Somali. In that moment, they were just kids. It didn’t matter to them how divided their adult counterparts across the country were. It gave me hope.
I don’t know what else is to come in the next few weeks, months, and years, but I certainly hope that we can have the unity that my kids in the hallway had today.
Ms. Hamilton is a guest contributor to chuckingrocks.com.