Schools all over the nation have been struggling with how to address this year’s election cycle, especially the presidential election. The adult-only language as well as the vitriol has left educators befuddled on how to address the candidates’ message and decorum with students. All too often, when controversy exists, educators tend to avoid addressing issues, especially those that are highly politicized and charged with emotions.
So, where does that leave us, as a school community? Some of you may recall my first blog of this school year that introduced my readers to the “Balloon Lady.” Since then, Patty and I have been communicating on a weekly basis sharing what our schools are doing, how North’s athletic teams are progressing, and how we celebrate holidays differently between two states (New York and Connecticut). We also communicate about how difficult it has been to teach about the presidential election to students, especially in her elementary school. Recently, she sent me a poem, “One Today,” by Richard Blanco. He read this poem at President’s Obama Second Inauguration Ceremony in January 2013. I watched the You Tube video of Blanco’s recitation of his poem and was struck by the opening and final words.
“One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
Peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
Of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
Across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up the rooftops, under each one, a story
Told by our silent gestures moving behind windows…
We head home…
Always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
Like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
And every window, of one country—all of us—
Facing the stars
Hope—a new constellation
Waiting for us to map it,
Waiting for us to name it—together.”
By sending me this poem, Patty reminded me of what really should be our focus: together, we can accomplish many things. The founders of this nation recognized the diversity and multiplicity of our nation’s early settlers, whether they were religious refugees, indentured servants, profiteers, or slaves. The concept of “e pluribus unum” has real meaning even 250 years. “Out of many one” nation exists. Blanco reminds us of this concept in his poem, using such words as “one sun,” “one light,” “one ground,” “one wind,” “one sky,” “one moon,” and “one country.”
Perhaps this is the message that we as educators need to impart to our students, who are the future of this great nation. The message “out of many one” rang true at our most foundational level and chimes even louder today. No matter a person’s political ideology, religion, race, education, culture, gender, or economic background, we as one people are in this enterprise of hope, trying to make the world a better place by creating “a new constellation waiting for us to map it, waiting for us to name it—together.”
I am thankful that Patty, the “Balloon Lady,” reminded me of what is truly important. I am also thankful for the entire North community (students, staff, and parents) who I know will come together as one to address any adversity or controversy.
May you and your families celebrate a Happy Thanksgiving.