By teaching our students to think, care, and act, we empower them to build a peaceful future.


Welcome to Think, Care, Act, where teachers and students can find rationales and resources to infuse required curricula with peace, character, global, and multicultural concepts throughout the year.

To act in a world whose problems seem overwhelming requires being able to use the powers of critical and creative thinking and compassionate and inclusive care. Employing these tools, adults and youth alike can work effectively and conscientiously to solve problems big and small, global and local.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

EMPATHY AND ACTION AFTER 2016 ELECTIONS

We have spent the past two months in our sixth grade American history class researching four political parties and running “campaigns” for the Green, Libertarian, Republican and Democratic parties.  Students have focused on four issue areas, as determined by their interviews of adults in their families and communities:

·      racism and police-community relations,
·      national security and immigration,
·      infrastructure and the environment,
·      and wages and economy. 
We researched many other topics, like gun control and gender issues as well. 


On November 8th, Election Day, we ran campaign booths as our entire middle school population visited booths and stood in line to vote in our mock election.   The students were engaged, informed, civil and respectful.  Our classrooms were inspiring oases in the midst of a contentious political environment. 

BEGIN WITH EMPATHY

After the election, there was an eerie quiet in the hallways and classrooms, as students were waiting to see what was next.  It was obviously important for us to take time to process the election outcome.  I wanted every student to feel safe and respected in our classroom and school, no matter which candidate and party they or their families supported.  Thus, rather than focus initially on the election numbers, we focused on empathy first.

In every class and gathering with students the day after the election, from homeroom, to classes, to lunch meetings, and electives, I moderated an exercise in empathy. 

“Here is a teacher's definition of empathy I like," I began.  "If you look at the popular vote, you see that our country’s voters are almost equally divided.  You may be feeling happy, while someone else in this room is afraid.  You may be hopeful, while someone in this room, on your soccer team, or on your school bus is worried for the future.  Let’s take time to understand our feelings about this election.”

    I asked the kids to privately write their own feelings about the elections.  I let them know we would not be sharing these thoughts aloud.  This was just a time for them to acknowledge their own feelings.

    Next I asked them to imagine and write the feelings of someone who had the opposite reaction to the election.  What were they feeling?  Why might they feel that way?  Again, we did not share these.  

    We discussed the popular vote and its representation of the voters in nearly equal opposition.  We discussed how groups of people will have opposing feelings about this election, and why it is helpful to try to understand their perspectives.  We talked about how crowds of people might “amplify” the feelings, pro and con, about this election, and how important it will be for us to be able to “see through the eyes of others” as we interact.

    We ended with a call to take action: empathic action, making our classmates feel safe in our school and working for the good of all in some way each day.

Next we used CNN’s electoral and popular vote graphics to discern the difference between the Electoral and popular vote numbers.  We also used a TedEd 5-minute video to discuss how one candidate could win the popular vote, while the other could win the Electoral vote.  It is a very helpful way for students (and adults) to process the American electoral process.


MOVING TO ACTION

The next day in class, we watched excerpts from the acceptance speech of Donald Trump and the concession speech of Hillary Clinton. “Okay,” I invited, “Let’s talk.”

Every hand was up.  Each student shared questions and comments.  Over and over students said how different both candidates sounded in these speeches from the campaigns.  How much “nicer” they seemed.  How “presidential.”  How they wished they would have “spoken so respectfully during the campaign.”  Some students felt there was hope "for a fresh start," while others worried that contentious “bullying language" would soon return.  “You can’t just stop talking like that in one day,” one worried.  We talked about whether we feel safe or concerned, hopeful or fearful. 

We will continue these conversations, using news articles and such resources as those provided by Teaching Tolerance to help us gain perspective on the diverse people in our school, communities, and country.

Moving to taking action, we also planned a letter-writing campaign to our new president-elect, expressing our hopes for the new administration.  Students felt good that they would be able to express their concerns in a constructive manner.  This was a healing moment in our classroom.  You may want to try it in yours. 

--Susan Gelber Cannon



RESOURCES:

Read full description of format of Sue Cannon's Middle School Election Unit http://thinkcareact.blogspot.com/

Teaching Tolerance has deeply linked resources for understanding the elections, countering bias, understanding multiple perspectives, and moving to action and civil engagement: http://www.tolerance.org/election2016

NOTE: Many links display advertisements prior to the start of the selected video.  Shorter excerpts are linked below as well.

CNN: Electoral and Popular numbers: http://www.cnn.com/election/results

Christina Greer’s TED-Ed Electoral College Video “Does Your Vote Count-The Electoral College Explained” (5 minutes):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9H3gvnN468

Donald Trump acceptance speech transcript and 14 minute video: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/10/us/politics/trump-speech-transcript.html?_r=0




I also suggest a 3-minute video clip of the meeting between Mr. Trump and President Obama: http://www.vox.com/2016/11/10/13587838/trump-obama-white-house-meeting   

Students may also be interested in History.com’s list of contentious U.S. elections:http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/7-most-contentious-u-s-presidential-elections

As always, Sylvia Boorstein’s Guided LovingKindness Meditation is always a welcoming way into feeling peace within ourselves and connections to our loved ones and our wider community.  Many of my students tell me how much they enjoy this 7-minute exercise in mindfulness.  https://vimeo.com/20121374



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