I rarely question the value of teaching. It’s something I have devoted my life to. Teaching hasn’t made me rich, because our society values money over kindness and power over people. I know this. I had merely forgotten. I guess I should be thankful I have been reminded.
If you are happy with this past election, not just who won, but the whole thing, you might as well stop reading now. If you believe hate filled words were not used then don’t waste your time reading further. It will only make you angry and there is enough anger in the world.
I can disagree with other grown-ups about a lot of things. What I will never agree about is hate.
This past election there were hateful words said and not from just one party or one candidate. If the things said in this past election were said in my classroom, my students would cringe and cry. Feeling unsafe they would cling to their parents, terrified of being left in this cauldron swirling with hate and rage and fear.
I kept waiting for a grown-up to say, “Stop.” I kept waiting for the parent in the other room overhearing their children bickering to come back and say, “Stop.”
Instead of waiting for the grown-ups, I should have been waiting for the children. For something happens between the years when we teach our children to be kind and when for grown-ups kindness is optional as long as it’s not too complicated an issue. This past election left me wondering if I have been teaching the wrong things?
If I take what I saw in this election into my classroom instead of saying, “We don’t make fun of children. We only use the names their mothers gave them,” I should be teaching,”If you are the biggest and loudest you can make fun of whoever you want.” Maybe words don’t wound and pierce and bruise as deeply as fists.
Instead of saying, “We always tell the truth, unless we are making up stories about unicorns who ride on rainbows.” I should be teaching, “Sometimes lying is okay.” Especially if it means you won’t be embarrassed or if telling the truth would cause you to lose power, friends or status.
Instead of saying, “There is enough for everyone”, I should be teaching, “Grab what you want as quickly as you can.” What’s the point of teaching a four year old that sharing play-dough is more important than grabbing it all?
Instead of saying, “We ask our friends before we give hugs because our bodies are our own,” maybe I should be teaching, “If you are the biggest, you can touch whoever you want, wherever you want.” I should be teaching young girls to get used to having their bodies touched without permission. What is the point of teaching three year old boys to keep their hands to themselves when grown men think grabbing women’s bodies is alright?
So parents if this is the world you want for your children then don’t come to me if your child gets pushed down at school. Tell them to toughen up.
If your girl comes home crying because the boys are kissing her even though she told them to stop. Tell her that’s just how boys are.
Don’t ask me how you can teach your child that honesty is important. Teach them to be a better liar.
Don’t tell me your child’s feelings were hurt because they are being called names. Teach them hateful words they can say in response. Teach them how to spot someone weaker to bully for there is always someone weaker.
Don’t tell me your child is sad and feels left out. Teach them not everyone belongs. Teach them the world is not kind. Teach them there are different rules for different people.
My whole life’s work was nearly decimated by this past election. I don’t know what result would have made me feel any less sickened. I knew grown-ups wanted change. I knew grown-ups were working hard and feeling they weren’t getting ahead. I knew grown-ups were fearful of being hurt by other grown-ups. I knew grown-ups thought other grown-ups were responsible for bad things.
And yet, even with all of this I thought the grown-ups would show up and finally say, “Kindness matters. Nothing matters if we lose our basic humanity.” But they didn’t. Perhaps instead of waiting for the grown-ups I should have been waiting for the children.
So grown-ups go ahead and get back to doing what you do. I will get back to teaching children to be kind in the hopes that when it is their turn to be grown-ups they will show up and do better.