Tuesday, November 8 was a big day for our country. The election for President was taking place and this election was like no other that I could remember.
Let me start by saying that I am the principal of a PreK through grade 3 school. Every election day we do a school election because we feel it is important that our students understand that they also have a voice and that their right to vote (even though it is years away) is an important right that no one should take lightly. Each student was given one sheet of paper with the candidates names on it. All they have to do is check off which candidate they would vote for. Now we realize that 4-9 year-old students usually parrot their parent feelings and votes on many issues but we still like to help the students understand the voting process and responsibility. As students walked into the gym for the morning assembly, they dropped their ballots into a box. We did a short assembly celebrating our country and our rights and before sending the students off to class, we talked about being respectful, no matter how the vote turned out.
Later in the day, my school counselor, who ran the assembly and was counting the votes, came to me with a disturbing issue. Not only did our student vote, but many of them felt motivated to write disparaging comments about the other candidates on the form.... words that students this age should not be saying or using in this context. Things like, "(Candidate name) sucks" and other, less offensive things. From the mouths of babes....
These are the words of our children but the thoughts of our adults. We as parents and educators must do a better job of teaching kindness, not hatred. We must teach respect not intimidation and deceit. We must teach empathy so that our children can feel and understand. We (families and educators) have the power to make the difference. None of us is perfect but we must teach our children that kindness and empathy are how they can make a difference.
What we've seen over the past several months has not been pretty. What our children have seen is not what I want for the world. It's not why I do what I do. We need to pay attention to our own behaviors and model what we want. There is still hope but it's our job as parents and teachers to make this
I'm calling on teachers and parents to pay attention to your children. Listen to what you say and be careful with your words. Your words will become their words. Your thoughts will become their thoughts. Pay attention to what your children are watching on TV and pay attention to the video games they play. Check their phones and make sure they are being the positive people you hope that your raised. Talk to children and have real discussions about real things in a way they can understand. Let them know your hopes and dreams for them and how kindness will win out.
It's up to us so LET'S DO THIS!