Monday, November 7, 2016

Impact on Students in a Trump-laden World

As this election cycle comes to a close, I am simultaneously struck with the overpowering urge to summarize my thoughts and feelings of recent months, while not at all being confident in articulating them.

And what I’ve come to realize, oddly enough, is that I actually want to thank Donald Trump.

Hear me out.

If you support him, you will not like what I’m about to say, so you should probably leave now. I just want to warn you in advance. If you continue to read this, and then take issue with me, then it’s entirely your fault.

As an educator, I have chosen to take on the challenge of creating better citizens for the world - I use math as my point of entry, but I try and teach the whole student. I did not have many teachers like that growing up in a very white and very insulated town. I am ashamed to admit that as a teen, I made a lot of the jokes about race and sexual orientation that may have been passable at the time, but I must admit it because it grounds my desire to not allow it to continue with my students today.

It wasn’t until I went to college (also very white, but with some diversity in the people I interacted with) that I learned to expand my worldview to account for others who did not experience the world in the same way that I did. This continued into my adult years. And in those years, I have surrounded myself mostly with tolerant, progressive, and open-minded friends and colleagues.  I had taken for granted that this evolution of thought was growing more and more common by the year.

Trump’s brand of hate, and the legions who follow him, were a staunch reminder that I could not be complacent in my journey to produce a new generation of forward-thinking people. His constant mangling of facts, statistics, and common sense strengthened my resolve to instill the critical thinking skills necessary for people to push back against those who depend on a soundbite or a tweet to go unchallenged. And whenever a Trump behavior would present itself as reprehensible, I had to reflect upon my own actions to make sure that I was not guilty - even accidentally - of the behaviors that I was about to loudly denounce.

As a result, I feel like I have become a better educator, and a better person, by making myself keenly aware of what I did not want to be, or what I wanted my students to be. I am constantly in a state of self-reflection when it comes to my teaching, but that usually take place in the context of a lesson, or the results of an assessment. I do not reflect enough on the overall impact I can be having on the lives of students, whether by direct instruction or indirect modeling.

Until now. Until Trump. And I don’t feel like I’m alone. I think there are a lot of people taking closer looks at themselves and how they impact others, and I believe that it will lead to an even more tolerant society. That is my hope. It’s the only thing that’s getting me through.

So thank you, Donald Trump. And now, you may go away.

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