voice

I remember waking up the day after the election tired and stunned. When I got to work I went downstairs to make copies and make some tea and did not make it back to my classroom until right before the tardy bell rang. I have a large class, full of all kinds of students from all kinds of backgrounds. I had not even thought about how they would respond to the election and that since we begin school so early that I might be the first adult they saw that day. 
Immediately an African American on the front row told me that she was disappointed in our country. I teach science, not government and thought that I needed to turn the conversation as quickly as I could safely back to the objectives on the board, but I could not ignore her hurt and the rest of the quiet in the room. I told her that  regardless of what candidate she supported that this country is run by more than one person, that very soon she would be able to vote, that she had a voice. Behind her, a student that also has different color skin than me, asked with an honesty and an ache in her voice that did something to my gut, 

“But do I have a voice???”

I did not know what to say. I wanted to have a great reassuring adult answer, but all I had was a new ache.  So I did a terrible thing and moved on to the lesson, even though there was a more important one being asked of me that day.  Throughout my morning I heard my Hispanic students joke about walls and being sent back to Mexico. They joked, but there was still some fear in their laughter.
I wanted so badly to reassure them, but I did know what I could promise or offer.  My own relatives and address were not on the line.

Months later, no matter what is on CNN or Fox News or posted on social media …. I still see my 5th period class. I try to filter it through their 62 eyes.
The jokes and questions and discomfort. The ones that I know where glad about the outcome and the others who felt uncentered, unheard or afraid.
I hear the question, “but do I have a voice?” in their voice, when I read my friends’ opposing opinions, when I read a new executive order and even when I read my Bible.
They wear boots.
They wear hijabs.
They wear hand me downs.
They wear rainbow pins.
They wear clothes I can’t afford.
Some of them still struggle with the language.
And a few of them aren’t in dress code.

Until recently I have shied away from talking about politics, publicly and even privately.
I often felt confused, bored and disconnected from it.
I never imagined that I would be watching Senate sessions on you-tube. 
That I would tell my husband who used to never vote to stop watching CNN and go do something about it. And that he would.
That I would paint posters.
That I would march.
That I would call senators and write letters.
That I would be explaining immigration polices and the electoral college to my elementary age children.
And that I am not the only one.
I have seen so many people who usually just post pictures of their cute kids or pretty food on Facebook and instagram, post articles and petitions.
That people on both the right and left would do all they can to promote public education. (keep doing it!!)
That many people disagree and that sometimes even a few do it with class and while seeking understanding.
I have learned that I think differently than some of my friends….and yet we can still be friends.
I have learned that there are all kinds of ways to have a voice. And that to really be heard that voice should be followed with action. And spoken in love.
That there are all kinds of voices.
And that everyone.
EVERYONE should have one.
This is, in fact, what democracy looks like.

So to my fifth period class,
I didn’t tell you that I snuck into my storeroom as soon as I could to wipe tears away.
I didn’t know how to answer your questions on November 9.
But I do now.
Yes, my students, my own children, my friends, immigrants and neighbors, Badlands National Park Twitter guy, people I agree with and even to the people I do not:
You have a voice. 

USE IT.



( I can not tell you how much that picture made my heart swell.)