The Day After in a Canadian High School

After the first Presidential debate, I promised my grade 12 French class that we could re-hash the American election results en français on the day following the election.

It’s something they wanted to do as Canadians. Because they were watching. Worried. Not understanding.

Because 75% of the class is female. 90% are not white. And not a single one of us is a white male.

So, yeah, they were watching. As was I. Because this class? It actually has the highest percentage of European descended Canadians of any of my four classes.

And that is not hyperbole. 96% of my students this semester do not claim European heritage.

Which is not an anomaly of the school schedule. This is my normal. It’s theirs. It’s the way we grew up and the people with whom we share our days. The people who feature in the stories of our lives and make up our community do not all look the same, worship in the same way, or follow the same traditions at home.

So we’re used to talking about the way one family does things versus another. Open discussions about culture and race come up on a nearly daily basis. And we listen. Ask questions. All of us. Students and myself.

Because understanding these kids lets me do my job better – not as a teacher, but as a human being.

Which means that yesterday, I got it. I understood their need to talk about election results in a country that’s not our own. Because we were all shaken.

So we talked. For forty-five minutes. And I didn’t even make them do it in French, because we were having trouble articulating our complicated thoughts and feelings in English, let alone in my second and many of their third or fourth language. And the conversation was more important than practicing the roll of their Rs.

But I don’t think I’ve said “I don’t know” more often in my life than I did in those forty-five minutes. I don’t know what this presidency will mean for them when they try to go shopping in Seattle. I don’t know what it will mean for their parents’ small businesses. I don’t know how there are so many racist and sexist people in a country so close to ours. I just don’t know.

What I do know, though, are these kids. These grade 12s who are on their way to graduation. These third-culture teens who want to understand, not hate. Who will be contributing to society in positive ways. And regardless of election results across the border, I can’t help but be a little hopeful. Because I know what kind of world these kids would vote for – what kind of world they will build.

And I’m glad we’ll get to live there. Together.