Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My students speak

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!
"Best thing I've seen all day!" I grin as I read this comment from an old high school and college marching band friend. I've always looked up to her, and I admire her strength and conviction in so many ways. I feel proud that she loves my students' voices and empowered that, even though President Trump (despite his love for Twitter) will almost assuredly not read the notes we tweeted at him, other hearts and minds have been moved by them.

Scrolling through the list of "like" and "love" notifications, my heart swells at the variety of interactions: colleagues, band friends, college friends, cousins. People I see every day and people I haven't heard from in years. People I absolutely expected to love this post and others I would have pegged as staunch conservatives. But that's the thing, isn't it? This particular president has crossed lines that transcend political beliefs and cut straight through to fundamental human feelings, rights, and experiences.

The morning after the election, when I ran to my phone and tears sprung to my eyes at the sight of that horrific headline, I wasn't crying because I would have preferred a different political outcome. I was crying because I didn't know what I was going to say, two hours later, when I walked into my cozy classroom home to face the familiar sea of sweet, brown immigrant faces that I love spending all day with. I felt like my country was telling my amazing, brave, hardworking Muslim, Hispanic, and Asian kids that we didn't want them, that they weren't safe here, that we don't respect or value their incredible stories, that we were better off before they came.

So when I read about Teaching Tolerance's #StudentsSpeak campaign, I knew I needed to use this opportunity to capture my students' feelings and let their voices be heard. I knew it would be difficult to navigate all our emotions on Inauguration Day, and that this would be the perfect outlet. So on Friday, after we studied the inaugural traditions and talked about why America's peaceful transfer of power is so important to celebrate, I invited my students to write a quick note to President (cringe!) Trump.

And they bent their heads, and pulled up their translation apps, and wrote. And my eyes sprouted more tears as they handed me their notes, full of fear and hurt and hope.


  1. Those are great pieces of advice given from the mouth of babes. I love it! You should send them to him. :)

  2. Thank you for giving your students the opportunity to say the important things on their minds and in their hearts.

  3. I read them on FB and now again, Jennifer. They are brave, and I'm sure gained more courage from your "encouragement" to write to this new and frightening president. It's hard enough to know people who aren't as at risk as your students, but still worry about their jobs, their health care, but these children make my heart break for them. I would wish they would be heard. Have you considered sending this to your local news, to CNN, to your congressional rep? Tell your students I would sand with them!

  4. Your students' voices need to be heard. I agree with Linda, send this message out beyond Twitter and Facebook. My spirit is crushed every day when the news reports the latest from the president.

  5. Children understand so much, thank you for sharing. Regards.


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