Make America Great Again!

Posted on Posted in Embracing Change, Embracing Life, Real Conversations

I am a substitute teacher at a middle school in Maryland. I have over 330 students in a two day period. My students constantly asked me the day after the election, “what are we going to do now Mrs. Barnett? How did this happen?” Some of my students were visibly distraught. They had no idea, I was more distraught than they were as I looked at their young, brown faces.

1960s Protest (credit Durham County Library exhibit)
1960s Protest (credit Durham County Library exhibit)

It was hard holding my composure in front of them and I’m not going to lie, I even broke down in front of one of my eighth grade classes. One girl hugged me and assured me everything is going to be okay. The students who parents voted for Trump, easily explained to their brown faced classmates, “you have nothing to worry about, my mom said he’s going to make America Great again.”

I know those kids, realistically had nothing to worry about because they would never be profiled or seen as dangerous. They would easily be given a job because of the color of their skin. No one would view them as suspicious if they had a hoodie on. I dug deep because I did not want to lash out and yell at them that this was not my truth nor did I want to hurt these young ones.

When I finally got my composure back, I felt the need to respond in a dignified manner. I was honest. I told them I was extremely disappointed in the results. I explained that our new president-elect wants to deport people who have families here. I said that several people who voted for him do not like people who do not look like them. I told them that this is called prejudice but we should love everyone, no matter what language they speak, what religion they have and no matter what color their skin is.

I also told these babies that, they have a voice and power. That they can volunteer to help an elderly person in their neighborhood. They can be kind to a kid who is picked on or bullied. They can be good students and great children to their parents. THIS is what will make America Great again!

Second graders vote in a mock election in Dana McDonough's class at the Fostertown School in Newburgh, N.Y. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)
Second graders vote in a mock election in Dana McDonough’s class at the Fostertown School in Newburgh, N.Y. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)

Another one asked me if I was moving to Canada. I affirmatively said, “NO! We don’t punk out; we fight for others and ourselves. We fight for better schools. Run for middle school government. Get good grades. Be respectful! Encourage your parents to run for the local school board and to attend their PTA meetings. That’s how you fight. This is what will make America Great again.

For months, I wondered why I was substituting again. I thought I would have moved on to do me FULL time. By the end of that school day, I finally understood why I am here at this school, during this particular school year. It’s not about me.

It’s for these babies. It’s for our future. It’s to make America Great again.

18 thoughts on “Make America Great Again!

  1. I kept to myself in the office the day after. I needed to shut out the worlds chatter. I had to come to terms with my own thoughts. Kudos to you for being there for your students. I know it was tough.

  2. Sadly, we don’t all have the same definition of “great.” Kids in middle school are still malleable, and you’ll have lots of opportunities to represent your race and gender so that they can go home and say, “Mrs. Barnett is not like that, mom and dad.” There will be many teachable moments during the next four years. Great post!

      1. We pick up on the coded language when certain people say things like “Make America great again.” We just can’t assume that someone else’s definition of great is the same as ours.

  3. I have never been happier than to not have to face other people than I was that day. My middle schooler sobbed uncontrollably on the way to school that morning. I almost kept her home from school she was inconsolable. I slept that day. I had to get away from the drama and process. I’m still processing. I’m in a steady cycle between anger and disbelief. I’m not ready to deal with the consequences of this decision. Not yet.

  4. Look we survived other Presidents who were not favorable to “us” in the past we will be ok. We can’t let this election think our rights are going to be revoked but i am happy you gave a great response to your students.

  5. I work in a school too so I understand. I think the most disappointing this is our Social Studies made sure the students were well informed about all FOUR candidates’ platform (more of them voted for Johnson than Trump although Clinton blew everyone out of the water) prior to our mock election. Seeing their excitement turn into disappointment was hard. I’ll also be honest in the fact that I am still having a difficult time processing this and I STILL feel like I’m being punk’d but you are absolutely right about the fact that we will not back down and back out. We have a lot of work to do.

  6. Yes, I had to work hard to avoid this conversation in my classroom. My students are older but the emotions were still high following the election. My hope is that we will mobilize as a community to ensure our best interests are not overlooked.

  7. Kudos to you and all the other teachers who care enough to take the time to explain this to the kids. I’m sure there were some teachers who voted for Trump and who knows what they had to say!

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