Responding to Donald Trump

The day after the recent presidential election, I faced class after class of students who were scared and outraged about the election of Donald Trump as the next president.

My students are largely immigrants or the children of immigrants. Throughout the campaign they had heard Trump say hurtful and hateful things about Mexicans, women, Muslims, and others. They had heard him mock, bully and threaten people who didn’t agree with him.

After the election, my students had so many questions:

How could this happen? Why does Donald Trump hate and lie about us?  Who voted for him? Do they believe these lies? Don’t they know we are Americans? Will people in my family be deported?

Credit: Francis Karm -

“Fear” by Francis Karm

Responding To Students’ Fear

I am a middle school English teacher, but as a teacher in these challenging times, I am responsible for doing much more than teaching English.

I wish I could have told them it’s going to be ok. I don’t know if it will be. I do know we can’t just wait and see.

I talked to them about the importance of being informed, of following the news, and of asking difficult questions.

I reminded them that the most important social movements in this country have largely been led by young people who are not much older then they are.

Solidarity rally and march for Michael Brown in response to the Furguson grand jury decision

Solidarity rally and march for Michael Brown in response to the Ferguson grand jury decision. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

I reminded them that most of the people who have made a difference in this world were once 12 and 13, just like my students are now. I told them “The leaders of the next generation might be right here in this classroom now.”

I also talked to them about the importance of community.  Change can happen when people stand together to defend their beliefs, to say no to injustice, and to take care of each other.

What is Working

I am proud of the communities to which I belong, and the ways that they are standing up for justice. California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) issued a powerful statement. They promised that California “will defend its people and our progress. We are not going to allow one election to reverse generations of progress at the height of our historic diversity, scientific advancement, economic output, and sense of global responsibility.”

Credit: Håkan Dahlström

Credit: Håkan Dahlström

Steve Zimmer, Board President of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) reassured teachers, students and their families. “We, like the LAPD, are not cooperating and will not cooperate with immigration services who might want to interview or work with students who are at a school site.” Click here to read his statement.

LAUSD reiterated its commitment to the values of dignity and respect. The District’s Office of Human Relations, Diversity & Equity distributed resources to help teachers and counselors guide students through these confusing and challenging times. Here are some of  their tips:

  • Allow students to express their feelings
  • Re-commit to fighting bias, bullying and stereotyping
  • Assure them you will protect and advocate for them
  • Correct any rumors or false assumptions

Let’s Work Together

Please consider doing these things with me:

Be Attentive to Your Students.  Many are vulnerable and scared, which makes some of them more quiet, some of them more belligerent.  We have to help them have hope, but not to simply hope – we need to teach them to take action.

Stay Informed. That means staying up-to-date by reading (and critiquing) serious and reputable newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post. This also means reading and supporting smaller, independent media like ProPublica and Alternet.

Lead by Example.  We can’t expect them to belief that their voices count if we don’t make our voices heard first. We don’t have the luxury of being too busy to make calls, write letters or join marches.

Yes, that's me.

Yes, that’s me.

Foster Youth Civic Engagement. We must teach our students about the power of the pen (or keyboard) and civic engagement. They need to understand how to share their views by writing to elected officials and letters to editors of periodicals. These options are available to all of us, not just adults, or citizens.

Looking Forward

Taking action has helped me to feel less powerless, and hopefully, it will help them feel that way, as well, in addition to reinforcing the added value of authentic persuasive English writing.

What about you? How are you feeling?  What are you doing in your classroom? How are you moving forward?  Please share your thoughts below.

Top image by Jamelle Bouie via Flickr


  • Amy Martyn

    Reply Reply January 6, 2017

    Great blog post. I wish you could be K’s 7th grade English teacher!

    • Melissa

      Reply Reply January 12, 2017

      That would sure be fun.

  • Abbie

    Reply Reply January 17, 2017

    Thank you Melissa. I really liked it!

    • Melissa

      Reply Reply January 17, 2017

      Awesome. Thanks for the comment. I’m really glad you liked the post.

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