November 11, 2016
Dear PS 321 Families:
I know that this week has been a complicated one for many of you. Above all, as a school community, we want to respect the diverse opinions in our community while never compromising our commitment to supporting all of our families and children. I applaud our teachers who handled children’s emotions after the election with care and respect. As always, our teachers took cues from the children, and in many classes, children were talking, drawing, or writing about their emotions. Throughout it all, teachers emphasized the democratic process and the need to respect that.
At a principals’ meeting this week, our Chancellor, Carmen Farina, spoke about the importance of leaders remaining hopeful and projecting a sense of calmness. Although she was addressing principals, I think it is instructive to parents as well. No matter what our personal feelings, and no doubt they are varied, we do not want to project a sense of despair to our children.
It is clearly the job of educators to make sure that children feel safe and supported in school, and to understand that some children–because of their race, religion, family structure, immigration status, or other things–may feel particularly vulnerable right now. We will of course continue as a school community to stand up for all of our children, to truly be a “No Place for Hate” school. And, we know that as parents and members of a caring community, you are dedicated to the same thing. Teachers know that they can reach out to our guidance counselors if they feel that particular children or families need extra support, and they have done this in some cases. Know that as parents you too are welcome to reach out to our guidance counselors: Ben Halioua at BHalioua@ps321.info or Carlina Ramos at CRamos4@schools.nyc.gov.
Educators cannot share our personal political views about candidates with students, and that makes sense in terms of respecting the diversity of our community. It was a very contentious campaign, and probably most of us agree that things were said that we did not want our children to hear. One tact to take to address this is to let children know that people sometimes say things in the heat of an argument that they do not fully believe. Children can relate well to that since they certainly are guilty of that at times!
As parents, of course you are much better able to share details and personal feelings with your children. Your response to your children will of course depend on your personal beliefs and on their age. But, whenever children are upset about something that happens in the world, it can be helpful to remind them that we can all continue to fight for things that we believe in. Children can do this by being kind and caring to their diverse classmates, by becoming knowledgeable young people who will develop into responsible citizens, by writing letters and working on local campaigns for justice. In response to a letter that I wrote to teachers, one of our staff members who works with 4th graders wrote to me on Wednesday, “I left school today feeling hopeful after hearing what [the children] had to say. They are smart, articulate and have beautiful caring and compassionate souls. These are our leaders. Therefore I am hopeful for a better tomorrow. I am humbled by our students.”
In his victory speech, President Elect Donald Trump was gracious and inclusive and spoke about being the President for all American people. He also thanked Hilary Clinton for what she has done for this country. Hilary Clinton’s concession speech was a beautiful call for unity as well. It was also a wonderful message to our young people and all of us to continue working for justice for all people. And, President Barack Obama pledged to help Donald Trump in his transition, saying, “We are all rooting for his success.” It is an important lesson to children that in a democracy, we can come together, even after a contentious and emotional election campaign, and even when we don’t agree.
We are so fortunate to be part of such a kind and caring community at PS 321. That, more than anything, will be a support to our children.