As I enter my classroom today, I wonder how to unpack last evening’s election of Donald Trump as president with my students. I have remained as unbiased as possible in my classroom throughout this entire election. My students do not know who I voted for and they do not know my party affiliation. I believe it is important to present myself this way as I am in a position of power in the classroom.
But this morning, my students will see my red, swollen eyes. They will hear my shaky and cracking voice. They will understand that I can’t seem to focus on the lesson of the day. And I wonder, how can I sustain this neutrality for four more years?
In class, we are reading The Kite Runner. This morning, we were going to talk about the chapter where the main character, an Afghan refugee fleeing from the Soviet Invasion, adjusts to life as an immigrant in the US. How can we empathise with his experience, while the president-elect of his adopted country has called for a ban on all immigrants from countries with terrorism?
How Donald Trump has changed the narrative
We are learning about rhetoric, or ‘language intelligence’ as we call it in class. We have studied the words of Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., and the founding fathers of our country. How can we analyse the beauty and power of such rhetoricians, while Donald Trump – the new leader of this country – cannot coherently and intelligently discuss his proposed policies?
We are learning about the history of women in the US in my Women’s Studies class. How can we talk about the monumental election and the gains women have made, while addressing the rampant misogyny that was ever-present during Clinton’s run for the presidency? How do we go from the enthusiasm, strength, and power of Michelle Obama, to Donald Trump’s promised policies against access to abortion and other women’s healthcare rights?
When I walked into the voting booth yesterday, my eyes glistened with the exciting prospect of our first female president. I looked at the women around me voting in this historic election, and wondered if they were also full of inspiration to be finally voting for a female candidate.
And now, the glistening in my eyes has turned to tears. We let one progressive, inspirational historic moment turn into another darker, fearful one.
Today marks a moment in American history. Instead of a step forward, we have taken a leap backwards.
Rebecca McGrath is a high school teacher in New Jersey, US