Posted on November 12, 2016
At Mid-Pacific and across our nation, teachers leveraged their social studies curriculum to take advantage of the historic happenings occurring here and now. Democracy in action! Acknowledging that children are young citizens and also have rights to their thinking, several teachers from preschool through elementary discussed the democratic process, the rights of U.S. citizens to vote for a president and other government leaders, and the rights of citizens to voice their opinion. Students cast their votes, electronically through We Vote Hawaii for students, or paper ballots placed in shoebox ballot boxes. Acknowledging the challenging way the media handled the election, which many of our students were exposed to, and the conversations among adults in the presence of children who may be quiet but listen keenly, the classroom became a safe space to teach tolerance for different opinions and to help the children process what they could understand. This is the work of character education, not only in the CE House, but in every learning space in the school and especially at home. Teaching empathy, compassion, and civility.
After the election, several teachers from preschool through fifth grade used morning meeting time and other appropriate times during the day to allow students to voice feelings and thoughts about an historic election. For example, there were discussions among preschoolers, their group meeting transcribed for parents to read. Here is an excerpt of the transcript:
Teacher: As you know the big people did vote yesterday, and we have elected a new president. We are wondering what you think about all of this?
Child: Donald Trump (is the president)
Child: Donald Trump was winning because he had a ton of voters.
Child: But he won all by himself.
Child: He had more people than Hillary Clinton, who wanted him to be president. . .
Child: I'm feeling kind of mad and happy and sad, scared, and serious. I'm feeling all kinds of feelings. . . .
Soon each child had a chance to express their emotional state, this part of the process wasn't rushed but instead we allowed them time to speak their mind. We felt the second part of this was key - empowering the children to now feel like they have control.
The teacher asked: How many of you can talk?
All hands went up!
Teacher: How many of you can talk loudly?
The whole group raised their voices as loud as they could!
Teacher: Great, when you have a problem at school what do you do?
Children: We tell somebody!
Teacher: That's exactly what you need to do! If you feel the president or anyone isn't doing something good, then you need to tell someone about it! What else can we do?
Child: You have to help, you have to talk with your voice.
Child: You need to take care of the animals and everything in this world!
Child: We can hug each other.
Child: We could kiss each other.
Child: We can tell mom and dad.
Child: We can help each other when we need help.
Child: I can talk like this! (using a high voice)
Teacher: Each one of you has the power to do all these things - we are all here to help each other! We can do this!!!
The smiles on their faces as they left the group meeting told us they felt empowered and ready to face the world.
Read the classroom blogs, particularly the blogs of Tiffany Byrne, Donna Revard, Michele LeBlanc, and Audrey Oserow, and how they helped students glean positive outcomes from the election. There are lessons in the voices of our children for all of us.
E Kūlia Kākou! Letʻs strive and aspire together!
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey, Ed.D.