It’s been said that when members of neighboring Masai tribes greet one another, they don’t do so with a “Hello” or “How are you?” They do it with the question, “How are the children?” It’s a little bit strange for that to be the leading question, but when you stop and think about it, it makes a lot of sense. When the children are doing well, we’re all doing well.
Wednesday morning, when I walked into work, it was clear that many of us were not doing well. A brief conversation with admin led to the counselor and I composing an email for staff on how to support our students’ potential range of emotions that day. It was the kind of email you put out the day after a major crisis event, which is telling in and of itself. I changed my plans for the day to make sure I was available if needed. All of the adults worked to make Wednesday a normal school day, but it wasn’t long before we were hearing about students who needed to talk to someone.
I spent the bulk of Wednesday talking to students, trying to provide comfort, safety, support, and hope. I sat with them as each one entrusted to me their stories, their fears, their anger, their tears, their outrage. I heard stories of parents who work multiple jobs to help their children and themselves have a better life. One student looked at me pleadingly as he said, “He calls my people murderers and rapists and now he is the president of the United States.” The unspoken question was, “HOW? How is that possible?” Another proclaimed the president-elect to be racist and sexist, feeling both of those things to be true given her identity and based on things said throughout the election cycle. Others shared their fears of being separated from family and friends based on the words of the president-elect. One simply seethed in rage over the whole thing.
Many of my students carry identities of multiple groups who have been diminished by the words of the president-elect. They feel targeted, as many do, because of their skin color, gender, or ethnicity. Many of my staff members feel the same way, in some cases adding in other identities. And all I could do was sit with each of them, letting them know they were heard and loved and safe at school. The hardest part was trying to find words of reassurance, because I just didn’t have any on Wednesday. And when I walked out of that building that day, I was wrung out.
Today, though, I’m starting to find words–starting to generate ideas for action. Because together we can do hard things. Because they are all my children. Because my people are hurting and feel unsafe. Because many of us are stunned by the messages we received loudly and clearly in the very early hours of Wednesday morning. Because I am an advocate and an ally. Because the children are not well.