“I'll be right back,” our two year-old said, in the middle of our Finding Dory movie night. I asked her where she was going.
“I'm going to get my blanket to put down on the couch, Mommy,” she replied. I watched her go, thankful for the seasons in which our kids have been able to gain more agency in their lives. As their language and motor skills develop, they're able to seek their own paths more.
She carefully placed the blanket down on the couch, climbed up and sat down, with the most satisfactory expression on her face.
“It's better for my butt, Mommy,” she said with delight.
I'm thankful for tonight's distraction of Finding Dory and “better butts,” but I'm feeling less-than-delightful this evening. My heart is broken for so many in our country who believe their own agency will now be diminished, under a new president.
Because that wasn't enough to process, I also have a loved one who is starting to show signs of cognitive decline. This has been a week of appointments to attempt to capture whatever we can in designing a long-term plan for care.
I keep attempting to channel my inner Kerry Moore during this season. I occasionally have moments of success at it, but mostly I keep trying to control the universe of this situation far more than will ever be feasible.
While some have criticized movies like Inside Out for being unrealistic, I'm taking all kinds of comfort that Dori is able to navigate her world so well. I cling to the hope that it might be the case for my loved one, for as long as is possible.
I had been asked to participate in a post-election dialog by a student-led group a few weeks prior to the election. My first inclination had been to politely decline the invitation. However, I decided that this was no time to avoid risk and to remain comfortably distant.
My acceptance came when I thought I knew who our president would be… Tuesday's election results were a complete surprise to me and I know I wasn't alone in that.
The night of the panel, I was emotionally raw and had no idea how I had come across. The room was filled with teary-eyed students, along with others whose expressions I could not read. I knew at least one student in attendance, who I hold dear, had voted for the president elect (or at least had said she would during our most recent conversation about the topic, prior to the election).
It was painfully difficult to try to balance my desire to express the reasons for the raw emotions so many are feeling, while trying not to demonize those who had voted for the president elect. Afterward, I channeled my inner Shelia Heen (co-author of Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well) and privately sought input on how I had come across.
“What's the one thing I did during the conversation that held me back from being as influential as I wanted to be?” I asked of two of my students who stayed after the panel.
Both students were very gracious about the impact I did make, but had a suggestion for how I could have been better. I had gotten choked up while talking about how I didn't want to explain to my kids what certain words meant, when the leader of our country was speaking on television. However, one of the students said this didn't really resonate with her, not having kids.
They indicated that I could have been even more effective if I had brought up issues closer to their concerns, as college students. While I had addressed the concerns over those who could potentially lose their healthcare, with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, most of our students are on their parents' health plans and are also incredibly healthy. I completely agreed with their critique and know that I need to become more well-versed on college affordability and accessibility.
One expert I know I will benefit from in this quest is Sara Goldrick-Rab, author of the book Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream. Angela Jenks has shared on the podcast about her perspective-taking as it relates to knowing the price of our assigned textbooks. It is easy for us to lose touch with what it is like to attend college from a financial perspective, for our students.
I need to get better. I need to be better. My students deserve better than my current level of knowledge on an issue that has such a clear impact on their lives. Especially the most vulnerable of them…
I'm incredibly grateful that I'm not alone in wanting to do this work. Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel challenged us this week:
Champion each other. The fight we need will be started with hugs not assault rifles. Don’t be afraid to use the word “love” in your pedagogy.”
May we all have loving our students at the centerpiece of our teaching. Thank you for reading this post. It has been the hardest one to write that I can remember.