Break the Silence with Compassion

In the wake of the election I find myself at odds with everything I thought I knew… I grieve with so many and wake everyday to a face palm moment

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Photo Credit:  Wikipedia

as each new appointee is named. The idea of going so far backwards in human rights, the disregard for the constitution, and utter disbelief that the behavior displayed by this man child is acceptable to ANYone hangs heavy on me each and every day.

I have noticed a shift in my graduate classes in schools, where there is a herd of elephants in the room and people who want to talk and others who don’t.  And while my first inclination is to let the conversation “go there” my next is to not. Silenced are many in the group. A group that has been together for so long…some feel empowered to speak passionately while others not so much and then you think, perhaps some people in this room voted for Trump and so we move forward with our polite conversations about conversations.

And so out of respect we do not go there…but I wonder is that the right way to go either? I realize that my classes that are largely based on discussion, heck two of them are focusing on classroom conversations and discussion, but they are stilted and without the ease and flow of yesterday. We do not trust each other anymore. We are unable to discuss anything that is disagreeable. The art of conversation seems lost or at least  dying when it comes to anything that is the least bit antagonistic.

I have lived with a Republican my entire married life and while this has been a challenge, ultimately I have respected that he has different opinions and viewpoints. And as much as I didn’t like it I had to respect it. As I have been saying from the day that man threw his hat in the ring, “THIS IS DIFFERENT”. And what I see happening every day in schools proves just how completely different it really is.  They are calling it the Trump Effect, yes it even has a name.

Stories of kids marching in to school the day after the election chanting, “Build that wall, build that wall” while others screamed out, “hang her” and “assassinate him”. Teachers are ill equipped to deal with this especially when the word from above is to not engage in discussion about the election and its’ results. (Can you even imagine NOT discussing the election…not even in Social Studies??) Teachers with election hangovers, like us all the day after, were left speechless at the behaviors going on around them. Silencing our teachers or silencing anyone is the first sign that oppression is winning.

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones

“Sticks and stones may break my bones

But words could never hurt me.”

And this I knew was surely true

And truth could not desert me.

But now I know it is not so.

I’ve changed the latter part;

For sticks and stones may break the bones

But words can break the heart.

Sticks and stones may break the bones

But leave the spirit whole,

But simple words can break the heart

Or silence crush the soul.

by Herb Warren

“silence crush the soul” this phrase haunts me as I sit and listen to these stories that make their way to me after class and in the hallways because these teachers need to talk.They NEED to talk and to let kids know that these behaviors are NOT acceptable and so that is where we begin. We begin by addressing the behaviors to create a safe environment for all of our kids and teachers.

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Photo Credit:Business 2 Community

I use Delta’s letter to its employees as an example of how to NOT be silent, but to speak out in volumes about how we need to be better than this.  (See here for Delta Letter) Delta took a stand on civility (that had nothing to do with taking a political side) and that is exactly what we need to do. We need to take a stand and not normalize any of this behavior because it is not normal! We need to call alt-right out for what it is, White Supremacy. We need to be truthful about what is happening right in front of our eyes and use our voices to let kids know what is acceptable behavior in school and what is not.  These kids are scared.  They are experiencing things we never experienced growing up.  They are anxious and nervous and it is our job to help them deal in any way that we can.

We can do this without addressing politics because this is NOT politics as usual. THIS IS DIFFERENT.

This is Lord of the Flies gone awry.  “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.” …Lord of the Flies.

We have come so far past this and choosing silence is choosing to not be a part of the solution. So I urge you to speak out, speak to each other, speak to your students about what is acceptable and what is not.

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Photo Credit:  John Bryan

One man is not the role model…we are all role models and we can do better. We can do so so so much better. And part of that is giving our students a voice, a voice that allows them to speak with confidence and the knowledge around what they are saying instead of jumping on a bandwagon of chanters and not even understanding the implications or meanings of what they are saying.  Teach them debate, points and counterpoints.  Teach them to speak with grace and compassion and hope and understanding.  Teach them to listen with their whole bodies to each other.

It is time to work with compassion, not just empathy. Empathy is feeling for others, compassion takes that one step further where you feel and then you take action. So with compassion we must move out of our grief and take actions every single day that move us away from the hatred that is running rampant in the hallways, on the streets and in between. We do have the power in each moment, in each interaction and those moments matter more than ever before.

And so I call on myself and for each of us to take action and make it known that we are in this together, regardless of how you voted, we are in this to create within the walls of our schools, our homes, our towns, our states, safe places and spaces where everyone is accepted regardless of race, religion or sex.

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Photo Credit: charterforcompassion.

Education is a big part of the answer. The more we know the more we realize how much we don’t know and in that we find humility and the ability to live from a place of compassion, together, and in peace.  Our jobs as educators is bigger than ever here and we can help ourselves and our kids through this…we can.  One moment, one child, one interaction at a time and while I know it will be painful the truth is that we got this.  WE CAN DO THIS!  We have no other choice.

Thank you for listening…

4 thoughts on “Break the Silence with Compassion

  1. I’m glad you wrote this and I’m walking with you. There is a kind of grief that is all too real right now. It has to do with walking backwards in so many areas, as you noted. I’ve often wondered how it is that we can possibly even talk about this. One thing I’m trying to do is not paint all Trump supporters with the same broad brush. Trump the salesman talked in such a way that anyone could hear what they wanted (despite the words he clearly used), I’m trying to remember that decent people looked beyond his hated and ugly behaviors in hope of something better. But even as I write that I am filled with disbelief. Oy.

  2. Oh Tomasen, I was on the cusp of dishing the post-NCTE blog post I was struggling to write because while I did love some of the sessions I went to, the moment I got home I was back to grieving and being outraged. This–and a magnificent piece by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/now-is-the-time-to-talk-about-what-we-are-actually-talking-about)–helped me forge on and get the thing done. And while I’m still not sure I was able to say precisely what I wanted, it felt really good not to be silent and to take a stand. So thank you, dear friend, and thank you as well for that lovely time we were able to steal outside in Atlanta!

    • My Dear Vicki,
      It was such a treat to get to sit and talk with you…as always. I am so excited you will be here this summer. What a great piece. Thank you for sharing. I will absolutely pass it on! I know you are traveling and I wish you well. Keep writing my friend!!

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