As I was driving to work this morning, I was nervous. I teach 14-16 year old students who are curious and quite willing, or rather compelled, to say whatever it is that they are thinking. This sometimes includes rude remarks, inappropriate comments, ill-timed jokes, and unrelated questions. I was nervous what types of questions and comments I would be hearing today in my classroom. I was nervous they would call each other names, make assumptions about each other and their families and the people who make up this country, lose faith in the democratic process, and write off the decisions that the people made. I was nervous they would be discouraged and jaded by yesterday.
Rather than avoiding these discussions and hoping that my students would figure it all out on their own before the age of 18, I decided to meet it head-on. I started each class today by asking if anyone had questions about the events that took place yesterday. What happened was a series of small moments when I got to look at the quiet faces of these kids (who are rarely quiet); they care and they understand the seriousness of the situation. Today was not a discussion of who voted for whom or why either of the candidates are the way they are; it was a discussion of “What now?”
What I heard from them today was fear and worry, some unsuspected insight, and a fire for change and responsibility in the next election (when they will be old enough to vote). I did the best I could to squash their fears by reminding my students that they are loved and cared for and that people will fight for them, including myself, regardless of who is in power. And I encouraged them to pay attention over the next four years and use that knowledge to fulfill their responsibility to vote in the next election. We discussed more than just the outcome of the Presidential election; we discussed the elected senators and congressmen and women; we discussed the propositions and what they imply. We did not discuss opinions on who won or should’ve won, but we discussed what responsibility the elected have to the people of this country. Today, they looked at me with concerned faces, and as we talked, a few of them relaxed their shoulders, others allowed a small smile, and others remained deep in thought.
My prayer is that they do not forget how they felt on this day. That the passion and concern that burns inside them, the innocent yet passionate fire, would not die out, but would remain and even grow as they make their way to the polls four years from yesterday.
The point/The challenge. Think of these faces the next time you vote. Think of these faces as you research and inform yourselves before you vote. These faces will feel the weight of our decisions. Please do not take this lightly. Think of yourself, but also think of them.
“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” -Greek Proverb