A storm of tension: a teacher's view of the US election

This British teacher in New York gives an inside view on the anxiety felt by international staff amid the US election
5th November 2020, 1:00pm

Share

A storm of tension: a teacher's view of the US election

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/storm-tension-teachers-view-us-election
Teaching American History Resources For Ks4 & Igcse

Yesterday, after the election, there was tension hanging over New York like a brewing storm. Not just for the international teachers and families at our school, but for everyone across the five boroughs that make the melting pot of the city.

We were nervous. This was an election that could have huge consequences for those living in the US on a visa and for those hoping to one day move here. People dashed around while checking their watches, looking at phones for updates and avoiding talking about it directly.

Stores and apartment buildings were being boarded up, adding to the anxiety. As classes emptied and everyone made their way home, there was a silent understanding that we would be glued to the news throughout the evening.

US election: the morning after

Waking up to the news that there was still no winner meant the nervousness would continue. At school, people were awkwardly keeping their thoughts to themselves, referring to the election with euphemisms like "circumstances" or "situation". 

Nobody knew who had won and nobody wanted to show confidence in declaring their prediction. The conversations at the coffee pot were shorter, the small talk in the hall was stunted. Until we could understand it better, until we could know more, until we could have some confidence in what would happen, we waited.

The changing picture

As the day went on, information started to roll in. Body language was relaxing as new data started to suggest things were looking more certain for Biden. With sneaking glances at news updates in the staffroom, the news of more confirmed numbers was being circulated as the hours passed.

But we had classes to teach and the demands were a welcome distraction for many. When families collected their children at the end of the day, it was with the same anxious vibrations that had been present for 24 hours. The election had been on a knife edge and it was becoming clear that our international community was starting to feel restless. Limbo is not a comfortable place to find yourself.

During our after-school staff meeting, news broke of another state's results being declared. A cheer erupted from the small team when it was jubilantly announced that Wisconsin had gone to Biden. After a few hours of plateau, the energy levels suddenly burst again. Change could be coming, and it was getting closer.

When certainty does not mean security

Although things were starting to look more positive for Biden, there is still an unknown ahead of us. Even as the election edges closer to a result, we are blind as to what really lies on the road ahead.

What the international community knows about Trump is that they are subject to language and rhetoric that can feel uncomfortable and, at times, scary. International teachers know the difficulties that are faced in order to obtain a visa and have felt like they have fallen in the crosshairs.

The international teachers feel optimistic for positive changes with a new administration, but what the policies would look like is still unknown. Even with a new president, it is hard to say what will help for international teachers and workers looking for a visa.

At this point though, any change would be welcomed with open arms. The exhaustion of the past four years can ease away. Hopefully.

The writer is a British teacher working in New York

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters