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A Call for Hope, Positivity, & Action

A Call for Hope, Positivity, & Action
by Mary Buckelew

Today, some are elated and some are despondent. I do not assume that the readership voted for the same candidates or party; however, as teachers we do have common goals.
One goal is to create a classroom environment where all students feel safe so that learning can take place.  In turn, we wish a safe world for all people everywhere.  We know this: Thinking, reading, writing, listening, discussion, and resulting actions can change the world. Together, we can make change.  We do and can create and sustain safe spaces.  With Hope, Positivity, and Action we can make a difference.

Purdue University Associate Professor Roxane Gay asks:

Where do we go from here? That is the question many of us will be trying to answer for the next while. For now, we need to breathe, stand tall and adjust to this new reality as best we can. We need — through writing, through protest, through voting in 2018 and 2020 — to be the checks and balances our government lacks so that we can protect the most defenseless among us, so that we can preserve the more perfect union America has long held as the ideal. We have to fight hard, though I do not yet know what that fight looks like.

Read more from Professor Gay:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/opinion/election-night-2016/the-audacity-of-hopelessness

Furman University Professor Paul Thomas shares:

On a dark mourning in America, I recommend reading or rereading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale—a sobering imagining of the worst of white responses to the rise of the Others they have created.

Read more from Professor Thomas:

https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2016/11/09/dark-mourning-in-america-the-world-is-at-leastfifty-percent-terrible/

Cornell Creative Writing Professor Christine Vines writes:

Electing a president is an act of imagination. How will they interact with foreign leaders? How will they respond to the next mass shooting? Will they abuse their power? What will they do with the nuclear codes?

Today, we gather for an act of collective storytelling. Which narrative do we want to live out?

Read more from Professor Vine:

https://electricliterature.com/what-the-rules-of-fiction-tell-us-about-the-election-and-the-danger-of-trump-b5bc03450213#.pzritmaoo

 

Langston Hughes had this to say —

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.

Tomorrow,

I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”

Then.

Besides,

They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Langston Hughes, “I, Too” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted with the permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/47558

I, too, sing America – Langston Hughes http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/what-langston-hughes-powerful-poem-i-too-americas-past-present-180960552/?no-ist

Buckelew profileDr. Mary Bellucci Buckelew is the Director of the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project and Professor of English at West Chester University. She is co-author of Reaching and Teaching Diverse Populations: Strategies for Moving Beyond Stereotypes. When she’s not facilitating workshops, leadership gatherings, and institute meetings; visiting youth sites for Young Readers & Writers; or teaching undergraduate and graduate courses – you may find Mary composing a poem about life in New Mexico, taking long walks with her husband Paul, visiting with family and friends, or reading a good book!

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lauren Baxter #

    It’s been three weeks since what I refer to as the Dark Day, and although the conversation in my classroom regarding the outcome of the election has subsided a great deal, I am no less sick at the thought of what could potentially happen for the field of education over the next four years. Just this week, President Elect Trump announced his choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Ms. DeVos, who has limited experience with public education, intends to focus her efforts on school vouchers and further the agenda of privatization of education. Her lack of experience with public education does not look good for the majority of educators in this country.

    Truly, this post was a reminder that while there is so much out of our control in terms of the future, we have the great responsibility of facing what lies ahead with hope and positivity. We must create classroom cultures where all students feel valued and safe and want to take action to stand up for what is right. We must teach them how to take action and that those actions are how change occurs. And in the face of uncertainty, we cannot give up; rather, we must fight the good fight and teach our students to do the same. We must remember the words of Margaret Mead and continue on: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

    Liked by 1 person

    November 27, 2016
    • mbuckelew #

      Lauren,
      Your passion and commitment to your students and to education shine through in this post — your words inspire and renew — and Margaret Mead’s words too — so fitting for what’s ahead. Voicing our concerns and taking action — so important.
      Thank you so much for sharing!
      Mary

      Like

      November 27, 2016
  2. Elizabeth #

    I, like Kelly, saw many upset students the day after the election. I wanted to go in the next day with encouraging words, but I was shocked myself. I was doubtful that I could really ease their anxiety. As I was processing this in my own little world, students at Kennett were taking a stand. They organized a walk through town. Hundreds of kids, family members, teachers, and town citizens showed up on Friday night to show their support. Unlike the violent protests that were popping up around the country, these students led a walk signifying solidarity and peace. I’m incredibly proud of what they put together and I’m inspired by them. If students in this community can find hope, I can, too.

    Like

    November 21, 2016
  3. janiceewing #

    From Don LaBranche:
    I just read Mary’s post and thought of this small scene from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I offer it to be part of the conversation.

    One of the reasons we read literature is so that when the times we live in take all the oxygen out of the room and we cannot find the words we need, the words of great works of art suddenly come up out of memory to fill the void. Here is a short exchange between two troubled, heroic characters in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”.

    ‘I had forgotten that,’ said Eomer…How shall a man judge what to do in such times?”

    ‘As he ever has judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.”

    Liked by 1 person

    November 13, 2016
    • mbuckelew #

      Don, Thank you for sharing — a very fitting dialogue for our current environment — so wise. Your post calls to mind Louise Rosenblatt’s views on literature and democracy:”Literature . . . helps readers develop the imaginative capacity to put themselves in the place of others—a capacity essential in a democracy, where we need to rise above narrow self-interest and envision the broader human consequences of political decisions. (Rosenblatt, 2000)

      Literature as Exploration, “first published in 1938, grew out of this work as Rosenblatt came to see the reciprocal nature in the act of reading and viewed meaning as neither in the text nor in the reader. Her transactional theory celebrated reading as an active event. Moreover, her belief in democracy and its central role in the classroom never wavered”

      Like

      November 13, 2016
  4. Pam DeMartino #

    It would be easy for me to skip over your post and choose another topic to respond to in order to complete my blog assignment. As writers, however, we should not purposely avoid that which is unpleasant or painful. As writers, we must grapple with matters that trouble our hearts and perplex our minds in our mission to enlighten our readers or, as I feel in your words, to instill a sense of calm. And as writers, we must advocate for change when life’s events unfold in unimaginable ways. Trump’s election was the unimaginable to many people, but for others – like some of the students in my classes – it was the result they had voted for. I think it important to remember that a “safe” classroom is not one that protects only those students whose views and opinions conform to our own. We, as educators, must strive to ensure that the voices, and votes, of all students are respected. My legal background has instilled in me a love for the law and a trust in the judiciary which upholds it. I reminded my students this week of some our country’s most divisive Supreme Court decisions: Plessy v. Ferguson (separate but equal doctrine); Korematsu v. United States (constitutionality of the internment of Japanese Americans); and Roe v. Wade (the right to terminate a pregnancy). Despite the egregious outcomes of the decisions, victims and their advocates did not call for the resignation of the justices, nor did they assail the appellate system as ineffectual or corrupt. They called for action. They called for peaceful protest. They called for educating the ignorance and correcting the wrongs. I am seeing a passion among students that resonates with the activists of the 1970’s. Yes, our students are scared and angry and unhappy, but thank God they are at least feeling something again. Apathy has been the scourge of this nation, and the bane of my students’ writing. How many of us in class shared how we invited students to write about their feelings and beliefs. Now they are writing from their hearts, and their writing has an energy and an edge to it that gives it power. We must help our students harness this power in their writing. For controversy and conflict are constants in our world, and plenty more of each will certainly follow this president’s tenure. I very much appreciate your assessment of our need for hopefulness, positivity, and action, for I see all three as the essence of our literary citizenry.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 13, 2016
    • mbuckelew #

      Pam,
      The background you share/court cases and your insights into your own classroom are essential in seeing the broader picture of how we might address student responses to the current landscape — And knowing students are writing from their hearts gives me hope that they will help to shape a better planet.
      Thank you for taking the time to share.

      Like

      November 13, 2016
  5. Katie Boyer #

    I am so glad you shared your thoughts both on the blog and in the classroom. It’s so easy to gloss over “the hard stuff” because many times we are told not to go there. However, I have always felt that we are shaping the entire individual student and therefore, real world conversations are essential.

    I appreciated that you took the time to have us reflect on our current political situation. I too had my students do a somewhat informal reflection on the election. I felt as though it needed to be addressed even if it was just individually. I had them write down their current mental state and a few students did choose to share and we had a meaningful conversation. No doubt, it will take a while for many of us to heal but your words of wisdom and meaningful teaching make that healing process a little bit easier.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 12, 2016
    • mbuckelew #

      Katie,
      I have been impressed with your wisdom throughout the course of the semester — I am impressed with your courage to give students voice in a very uncertain time.
      Thank you for your post.

      Like

      November 13, 2016
  6. Michele D Houghton #

    Thanks for taking the time to share your insights and those of others. I too, was quit shocked to wake up Tuesday morning and find Trump had won the election.

    I know both Trump and Clinton’s character was questioned during the campaign. Both came off as being dishonest. That said, I found Professor Christine Vines words to hit home. When deciding who would best lead our country, I imagined the future leaders interacting with foreign leaders, making major and tough decisions. Trump was not the future president I imagined.

    In my fourth grade classroom Wednesday morning I had students sad and happy. We talked about how we all have our own opinions and we need to be respectful of others. i shared that our future leader will serve the people and do the best for the well-being of our country.

    Though I am still not positive Trump will do this, I am being hopeful. If we all our optimistic and put our trust in him, all we can do is believe he will rise to the occasion.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 11, 2016
    • mbuckelew #

      Michele,
      Your students are fortunate to have such positive teacher! I am not sure I have as much confidence in our newly elected president as you do — but we are here now and must move forward.

      Like

      November 13, 2016
      • Michele D Houghton #

        I don’t know how much confidence I have either, but I need to stay positive!! His character scares me a lot!!

        Like

        November 16, 2016
  7. I think we all needed this post. I will share with my grad students, many who have been tearful and quite upset. Thanks, Mary. I also intend to follow the links and do some more reading! What we can do now…we need time to reflect and continue to do our best for our students and country.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 11, 2016
    • mbuckelew #

      Lynne,
      You make important points “we need time to reflect as we continue to do our best for our students and country.” As we focus on our content areas, we can ponder and plan how to take positive deliberate actions.

      Like

      November 13, 2016
  8. janiceewing #

    Thank you,Mary, for posting this, and others for commenting. I feel as though we’re facing an enormous responsibility and dissonance, trying to create safe spaces for our students, when the reality is that they are not safe outside of our classrooms. We need communities like this one more than ever to help us navigate this together.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 11, 2016
    • mbuckelew #

      Janice,
      I agree — one of things that is so disconcerting is the dissonance — no matter how safe home or the classroom maybe — it’s guaranteed that what’s outside the classroom door is uncertain.
      Communities help!

      Like

      November 13, 2016
  9. Thank you, Mary for reminding us of the urgency of reflective action and the need to harness our emotional energy as we are trying to breathe and deal with our feelings of disbelief.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 11, 2016
    • mbuckelew #

      Rita, Yes– there is a sense of urgency and it seems some teachers are already seeing the power of the “emotional energy” that you mention in their students writing — which gives us hope.

      Like

      November 13, 2016
  10. Thank you for this post and the important reminder. I have had some very upset students this week and I’ve been trying to encourage, console, and motivate them with meaningful literacy activities. My 9th grade students are 14 and 15 years old and one of my biggest messages to them this week is that it is now their responsibility to spend the next four years becoming informed citizens so they can make sure their voices are heard in the next presidential election.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 11, 2016
    • mbuckelew #

      Kelly,
      Thank you for the comment and insights into your classroom. Helping your students navigate this stressful and horrific landscape is so important — and paving the way for activism, essential. Your hard work and good work is so important and much appreciated! Thank you!

      Like

      November 11, 2016

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