Evanston educators seek to ease post-election anxiety


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

ETHS/D202 Board President Pat Savage-Williams speaks at a community dialogue. Some Evanston Township High School teachers tried to help their students process the election results.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

Some teachers and administrators at Evanston Township High School took time out of the school day to help students process the results of Tuesday’s election.

Bill Farmer (Weinberg ‘03), the Teachers Council president at ETHS, said he was not looking forward to going into work on Wednesday morning. Farmer said being one of the first adults to help students process the results felt daunting.

Farmer said he tried to create a space for students to discuss their reaction to the election, but the mood was somber in his first period biology class. He gave post-it notes to students to write down how they felt and talked through the election results with former students who came to his room to “vent,” he said.

His students seemed tired and sad, he said.

“They were motivated to try to do something, (but) I think at the age of 14 and 15 they’re not sure exactly how to engage in the democratic process,” Farmer said.

Farmer said some students were discussing planning a protest or joining larger protests that were taking place in Chicago on Wednesday night.

The timing of the election was particularly poignant for one of Farmer’s classes, he said. They had spent the past week studying climate change and the impact humans had on their environment.

In light of Trump’s rhetoric on climate change, students had questions about environmental policy moving forward, Farmer said. The president-elect has said climate change is a “hoax” perpetrated by China and threatened to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Farmer said students and teachers alike seemed to be at a loss Wednesday morning. ETHS Principal Marcus Campbell said in an email that the school had seen an uptick in students wanting to talk to social workers after the election. The school was was providing “the supports for our students as we would on any given day,” the email said.

In his morning announcements, District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said it was time to reflect and “reaffirm our appreciation for one another.”

“This morning I want to remind all of you that ETHS is a safe and welcoming place for you. You attend a school where we not only respect differences, we embrace our diversity,” he said in the announcement. “Today, I urge you to be kind and caring to one another.”

ETHS District 202 Board President Pat Savage-Williams said the announcement sent the right message to the students after a “divisive” election season.

The most important thing was to make students feel safe, Savage-Williams said.

“Whatever side they’re on, our goal and our job is to embrace the students, to help them feel like they belong there, to help make sure they feel, that they are safe, so that we don’t add to their anxiety,” she said.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th), who has three kids who are students, said that Tuesday night was “quite stressful and disappointing” for the whole household.

Wilson said the message he tried to get across to his children was that now was the time to assess their future plans for political and social involvement.

“The next day there isn’t anything you can do about the results from the day before, but what you can do is to look at what happened and make a personal commitment to effectuate change in the direction that you think it should be changing,” he said.

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Twitter: @noracshelly