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My Students Think America Hates Them: How Can Teachers Respond?

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I just listened to a riveting post-election episode hosted by Rae Pica, with Jill Berkowicz Ed., Sean Thom, and Jason Flom.

I was struck by the inescapable predicament teachers around the country are facing. Elections have always been about winners and losers, but this time it's different - very different.

This time we’re not talking about the garden variety agony of seeing your team come up short.

The feelings swirling around our communities are not the classic dejection of seeing hopes for the future temporarily deferred.

We're talking about the kind of loss, pain, and fear that a teacher can't resolve by simply hugging kids, and whispering a few platitudes -- “don’t worry, everything is going to be okay.”

We're talking about a loss that brings, real, stark, existential threats to some of your students and their families. Threats that many of us cannot begin to fully understand. For most of us, life will go on business as usual. Others fear the long impending nightmare has begun.

Your To-Do List

It seems that teachers are routinely being forced to deal with more than they expected when they signed up for the job. As we all wait to see how the post-election dust will settle, I get to work safely secluded in my office. I don’t have to face the public dissonance unfolding across the country, mask my real feelings before peers and students, or be responsible for assuring kids about things, I’m not sure about myself.

I hear the pain and helplessness some teachers feel as they wade into this milieu. I grasp the tightrope many of you feel you are walking - some hiding your distress, others concealing your glee as you interact with your students. I sense how conflicted many of you feel as you try to reconcile the many diverse responses to the election that are all colliding in your classroom. Sadly, "this sucks" is the most thoughtful response I can muster.

I’m grateful to Rae Pica for taking the initiative to reach out to teachers and experts about how you can respond to this stressful and difficult demand we've all placed on you. I hope you find  the thoughts and strategies they share below useful.


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I'm the executive producer of BAM Radio Network, which means I get to eat, sleep and drink education talk radio. Over the last 10 years, I've been a fly on the wall in over 4,500 discussions between some of the most thoughtful, passionate and fascinating educators in the nation. On these pages I share the most important lessons I've learned from them, along with an occasional rogue insight of my own. BACKGROUND: I am a 25-year veteran of the media. Over those two-and-a-half decades, I had the opportunity to author four books; write for The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Times; and spent three years as a popular radio talk show host on KIEV in Los Angeles. I worked for seven years as an "on air" political commentator and co-hosted the Emmy Award-winning program Life and Times on PBS television. I eventually moved on to become a business reporter at KTLA in Hollywood. Owing to some great mentors, some good timing and perhaps a shortage of available talent, I managed to pick up five Emmy nominations and one Emmy Award along the way. Oh by the way, I went to Harvard. Well … actually, I was invited to speak there once, but I really learned a lot from the experience. :)

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Guest Tuesday, 19 March 2019