The Lessons of Election Season

Posted on: Tue, 10/30/2018 - 09:00

Guest blog by Scott Strait, 2016 FCPS Teacher of the Year.

Dr. Alban has invited past and present Frederick County Teachers of the Year to share their thoughts about their profession. Scott Strait, FCPS’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, shares his advice for teachers during election season.

Election season can be an exciting, yet trying, time to be an educator. It provides teachers in both elementary and secondary schools the opportunity to teach and discuss our electoral process, the American version of democracy, and civic engagement. It is a great opportunity for teachers and students alike to reflect on our responsibilities as citizens. In doing so, we must also navigate the formidable minefield of American political partisanship. In discussing the American political process, teachers must remain neutral facilitators, lest we appear to be partisans ourselves. The greatest challenge for us then becomes explaining why elections matter in the United States of America.

Why do elections matter in the United States? Consider the answer that a teacher might give in an AP U.S. History class. How about a kindergarten class? Would there be a similar idea conveyed in both answers? I have been asked this question many times at the middle school level. My answer is always the same. Elections provide us with the opportunity to make choices. They represent our ability in this country to make choices regardless of attaining voting age or having a direct connection to American politics.

This is a great time of year to remind our students of their responsibility and privilege to make meaningful choices on a daily basis. We can model this process as adults. Will we choose to be kind, helpful and positive to those we interact with today? Will we give our best effort? Will we help others today? Will we ask for help if we need it? Will we be proud of our actions after today is over? Having students recognize the outcomes of the choices they make provides a tremendous opportunity for learning and personal growth. Regardless of personal challenges and circumstances, all students have the ability to make meaningful choices every single day.

Instead of being turned off by the constant stream of negative political messaging from television, the radio and social media, let’s use this election season as a springboard to teach the power of choice to our students. This will embolden them to take greater ownership of their daily actions and will teach them to recognize the consequences of the actions they take. As they grow into adults and choose to participate in our nation’s political process we can be assured that we did our part to instill the values of making responsible choices and recognizing the outcomes of these choices. There is no greater civic responsibility than this.

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