Teaching in an election season like no other

As I head into planning for the fall, the question that I can’t get out of my head is this: How will I teach about the election this year? And the cascade of questions that follow: How will I prepare my students for being in schools in this election season? How do I give them the confidence to engage with students spouting rhetoric they heard on television?  What do I do if a student complains because I bring up the election?  What are my protections as a faculty member?  Do I have any?

Every other year when I’ve taught during an election, I use the historic moment as a teachable one: comparing education policies, examining rhetoric, critical reading of media coverage. The list of standards I could cover by digging into a political campaign was long. That hasn’t changed, necessarily, but this isn’t a normal election year.  Trump is a demagogue. The current president called him unfit for the office.  And both previous Republican presidents are remaining silent or offering criticism of the policies that Trump espouses, like isolationism and nativism.  His positions and rhetoric are not okay. But can I say that outloud in my classroom?

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If we had forever

I said the words that serve as the title for this post earlier today as I was wrapping up a week-long writing workshop institute  with a group of about 30 teachers from Northeast ISD. That’s a fitting line for such an institute because, when you dive into writing, there’s so much that doesn’t get done.  Conversations that don’t happen, aren’t finished, or are cut short.  Conferences that don’t happen, aren’t finished, or are cut short.  And when you layer on the meta-conversations about teaching writing, there’s even more that just doesn’t get said.  So “if we had forever” is what I offered.  Because we’ll always need to cut things short with our students: the bell rings, the grades are due, the year ends.  Though we can always consider, “if we had forever…” and remember that, when we’re writing, we can get close.

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