This is the first installment of a series exploring how schools are responding to the election of Donald Trump.
After an election that’s exposed deep racial and cultural divisions, teachers across the country are seeking constructive lessons for their students. Some educators have spent the past few days trying to soothe the anxieties of a student body that has now shifted to mostly nonwhite from white, given the president-elect’s campaign promises to restrict Muslim immigration, build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and resurrect stop-and-frisk. Others are cheering the outcome with their students.
Teachers face a difficult task of fostering respectful dialogue in classrooms where some children come from Trump-loving families and others from families terrified the president-elect will bring them harm. They’ve found themselves navigating an unusually extreme set of reactions to a historically divisive campaign. In some cases, they’ve guided these conversations in defiance of school leaders who would rather deflect them.
In the last week, we’ve interviewed close to 40 teachers and counselors (and a few students, too) around the country—in places like Seattle; Houston; Lawrence, Massachusetts; and Olivet, Michigan—about how the election results are playing out in schools. Nationally, more than 80 percent of public-school teachers are white, and the vast majority are female. The profession also skews heavily Democratic: According to one analysis, just one in five teachers identifies as Republican. And while we’ve attempted to gain insight from a politically and racially diverse array of voices, that reality is reflected in the teachers we interviewed.