Reflections on Election Teachings and Learnings

November 8, 2020

Following this week’s national and local elections, I write with a few reflections. The School has spent this past week being present for students and engaging in conversations and learnings in every division. What I have observed is how deftly the adults in our community helped to hold and structure spaces for our students to be together, to discuss and to understand the complexities of an emotionally charged election.

I, for one, am considering the question: What does democracy mean today? How can we, as a group of caring, mature, and opinionated adults, help our students understand and embrace the gifts of a democratic process, even when it’s messy and complicated. Based on talking with our faculty and dropping in on classes, here are a few key learnings our students have taken away from this election season:

  • Increased understanding of the electoral process: Based on school-wide engagement, our students understand the challenges and nuances of the Electoral College, issues such as voter suppression, and the importance and impact of each and every vote. Even our first graders were practicing their math by following the electoral college count!
  • Voter turnout: With a record projected almost 67% voter turnout according to the non-partisan Election Project, this is the highest turnout since 1900 (when women and people of color could not vote). No matter what our political leanings, adults who model voting and demonstrate the impact of a single vote (truly!) will make our children lifelong voters and engaged citizens.
  • Understanding of (and patience for!) the Civic Process: Waiting is not in our nature these days when instant gratification and a quick process are expected. These past five days have required states to follow meticulous processes to count mail-in ballots and to assess close races. Unlike previous elections, the news media was more cautious in making calls. 
  • Our first woman and POC Vice President-Elect (and Oakland native): To me, as a woman leader, a mom, and an Oaklander, this is a historic reason to celebrate. Providing our students with more role models who can hold one of the highest offices in the country is critical as we empower our children to be elected leaders and strive for the highest offices in the land.   

Our students have learned so much this fall, but most of all, I hope they have learned resilience, to listen deeply, to use their voices, to share opinions made with critical reasoning skills, to use facts, science and data to make decisions, and ultimately to treasure --yes, treasure and uphold--our school’s mission and our democratic process.

Our Middle School Dean of Students, Danny Pando, said to students in last week’s MS assembly, “Solutions are deeper than the election.” As we all wait for the next steps, including official state certification of  votes, our students will continue to witness the process unfold and find ways to strengthen our strong democratic future ahead. 

Take good care,