When You’re Down, Students Pick You Up

This morning, I came in to find that this sign, which had been on my classroom door, was gone.

2017-01-30-19-03-53I had made it in light of the recent executive order, which is (as far as I’m concerned) a hateful move toward Muslims. Like many other schools, colleagues and I had welcomed students at the main doors on Tuesday all bearing signs saying they were welcome and wanted at our school. I have a number of students whose families are personally affected by this ban, and I wanted them to have a visual signal that I am opposed to it.

When I saw the sign gone this morning, I was heartbroken. Why would someone take it down? It’s a vinyl sticker – removing it would take effort. I couldn’t fathom why someone would remove it, and my thoughts turned sour. I posted on Twitter to get some ideas from my beloved #MTBoS, and was encouraged to talk to my classes about it and put the sign back up.

As class was beginning, I couldn’t stop thinking about how someone could be so hateful as to remove a sign welcoming students to class. I started students on the warm up, and pondered my options.  I couldn’t stand the idea that students had seen the sign for 2 days and then seen it gone. I worried they might think I thought 2 days was plenty of time to have a sign like that up.

So before digging into math, I put up a picture I’d taken of the sign, and talked to my class about it. I explained why I had put it up. I avoided specifics, but said that things had happened over the weekend that upset me, and I wanted to be crystal clear that all of our students belong at school. I believe that in my bones.

I told them I believe strongly in the value of talking to and listening to people with whom we disagree. I emphasized that even if they disagree with me and hate everything I believe in, they belonged. All of them. I said that I would put the sign back up, and if needed, I would put the sign up every day from now until the end of the year.

Because I’m a crier, I was crying – not sobbing, just tears – and I made the requisite jokes about how freaked out all of them must be about that. There was appreciative laughter. They were extraordinarily gracious, and I ended by saying that if any of them want to talk to me about anything, they’re welcome to come find me. I’m open to it.

Class went on.

At the end of the hour, a student came up and handed me a note. This particular student is Muslim and has spoken to me before about how difficult she finds it to be Muslim in America, where her beliefs are so often under attack. Here is the note she gave me:


I immediately teared up again. She didn’t see that, having already left the class. I am so impressed by her grace. Feeling a little sheepish that I was the one to cry.

A few hours later, I was in my room during prep and a student came rushing in to tell me that they’d found my sign! It’s on the Auxillary Gym door. I have no idea who moved it or why, but it’s still up in the school and maybe whoever took it just really liked the glitter. Who knows? I’ll make another one for my door. The student who came to tell me about finding it was so clearly relieved. I feel very loved by my students today. I hope they know the feeling is mutual.

Author: Ms. P

Math Teacher in Minneapolis, MN.

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