[For context, almost all of our students identify as Latina/o, Hispanic, or Chicana/o.]
Today was the most intense day in my teaching career. For many of our students, it was one of the worst days of their life. What did it feel like to walk into school this morning? Fear.
It doesn't matter whether you agree or disagree with our students politically. It's easy to criticize people's opinions. It's harder to look a crying teenager in the eyes and say something meaningful.
By their words, I heard the American dream die twelve times before lunch. Our job is to help them put it back together.
Our students wanted to process the election results. So we did. Some of their words were optimistic, and some of their words were not. They wanted to give advice to younger students (and, I suspect, to themselves). And let me tell you: these words were hard-earned.
Enough from me--here's what they had to say:
"I'm scared that if my dad gets deported, they're going to kill him when he tries to come back to me."
"Nobody deserves to fear the president. You should change this fear into action, eventually. Don't rush your feelings! Feel the way you want and don't let anybody tell you that you're feeling wrong."
"Many of you might feel that there is nothing in your will to change the outcome, but you can change yourself. Education really is the key to salvation. Being an understanding, humble person can take you so far in life. Do not let fear and hatred overcome you."
"Do not be afraid of standing up for what you believe in. Do not let this election discourage you as a person or where you came from, but let it be a lesson to you. Educate yourself and understand the sexism and racism in this world. Today is a day to grieve, but from then on it's a fight. It's a fight everyday so that one day there will be a pure world with no hate. We may never be alive to see that day come, but know in our hearts that we fought for it to be possible."
"He has only proved that we were wrong when we tried to believe that as Americans, we are smart, talented, and progressive. We aren't. We have shown the face of hate across our country. Americans can be selfish, but all of this is okay. We cannot change it. We can only continue and be proud to be so diverse."
"Do not worry about what is going to happen in our country. There are many things that we can do that will keep us from falling apart. We as a community all feel the same way. What we can do is make each other happy. We will push each other to be the best of our abilities. We will get through this battle, and we will win. As the new generations that we are, we will decide what our future looks like."
"Why should I keep working hard? America has turned it's back on immigrants."
"I know most of you guys and girls are afraid, sad, and broken, and you really don't know what to do. I know everyone is afraid to lose your loved ones, especially if you're a minority. I can't lie. I'm broken too. Shit, I'm even sad, but I've learned that the only way things will get better is if we all stick to our dreams and what thinks are important to us. What happened yesterday with the presidential election is gone. Trump is the face of the country, but that shouldn't matter. Your family, your friends, everyone you love, your dreams, and hope, even yourself is what matters."
[An extended version of this post was published on Chalkbeat.]