When I look back at my teaching years one of my favorite days was field day. We had three fourth grade classes and each class would choose a color. One year our class was blue, everyone dressed in blue and we competed against the other classes clothed in green and red. Tug-of-war was my favorite. My entire class would tug and pull – all working together, trying their hardest towards one goal. We were a team. Whether we won or lost we were united… sweaty and thirsty – but united.

I enjoyed field day for two reasons. First, it brought us all together outside of the classroom and second because often the kids who were all-stars during field day were the kids who watched their classmates pass them by when it came to reading. There’s something about having a strong kinesthetic intelligence and not wanting to sit still and read. The kids who struggled the most with reading had the biggest smiles upon hearing their class cheer for them during 200 meter races.

About a week before field day I would give my students reminders on good sportsmanship and the appropriate behaviors during competitions. I loathed the words, “they cheated!” and made it clear that field day was about having fun and that fun did not include fighting or bad attitudes.

After all, every other day of the school year these same three classes played together on the playground and even took field trips together. Most of the students had been with each other since kindergarten. They were all friends.

A teacher encounters many difficult social issues throughout the day. It’s their job to make sure every student in their class feels safe, and in order to make that happen, social issues like being kind to one another, must be addressed. And if you ask any teacher, I’m sure they’ll tell you that teaching social behavior is something they do often. You can even see it in the posters they hang on the wall. I used to have one that showed children of all races holding hands across the world that said, “We all smile in the same language.” Another one described being different as being beautiful. I’m sure many of my former students can recall my lectures about walking in someone else’s shoes. I diligently tried to get my students to see the human being and to care about not hurting someone’s heart.

I think if you ask any parent they will tell you it’s important to them that their child is respectful and kind to others. I don’t know of any parent that wants their child to go out into the world and be mean.  But there is a quote: “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I see democrats and republicans as similar to the teams during field day. While I am a democrat, I have many republican friends. Even if we disagree about a certain issue our friendship is not affected. That is because we see the human and not the party affiliation. I have learned a lot from my republican friends. They’ve opened my eyes to unique points of view. How would I ever see another side to an issue if all my friends agreed with me?

After my daughter’s accident many people in our community came to our aid. It didn’t matter to them whether I was republican or democrat. They saw a ten-year old girl paralyzed and they offered around the clock help for our family. I was overwhelmed with thankfulness and stunned that even those who hardly knew us reached out to help. Imagine what we could do as Americans for our country if we took that same attitude of wanting to help improve our country democrat and republican together.

Recently, I’ve noticed that some of my friends on Facebook have spouted off about President Obama or the republican candidates. I’m the first to admit that when I see something anti President Obama I feel an instant anger. I feel attacked because I think he’s one of the most intelligent and level-headed leaders that we have ever had.
I read all the comments under the negative status wondering who else is on that team – the one that isn’t mine.  I feel the anger stirring inside me. There is a desire to leave a comment – fight back. Speak up for what I believe in. Would that make a difference or only escalate until this person feels separate from me? This person who is my Facebook friend. I know what I’m feeling is wrong. It’s evident from the lack of peace within. It’s my ego. I remind myself. Am I not the person who spent hours teaching children about understanding others – being kind? I stop. I remind myself to see the person behind the comment… see the human being who is my friend. Peace returns.

I do the same with the Republican candidates. I hear and read many things about them. Often I wonder how much of it is really true and how much is stretched and taken out of context. I ask myself how informed I really am. Am I believing something I simply heard on TV? Is my desire to be on a side or a team outweighing my desire to help make this nation better for future generations?

In my humble parent/teacher opinion, I think it’s time that we as citizens and adults show our children that it’s okay to agree to disagree with individuals and still get along. And more importantly I think we should show our children that two sides can come together and solve an issue.  Attacking, blaming, and posting negative Facebook comments about people only shows those who are watching carefully that this is acceptable behavior when we disagree with what others believe. Haven’t we had enough conflicts for this reason? On Facebook our words are our weapons and maybe we don’t kill one another physically but we do hurt one another emotionally. And aren’t we really all on the same team? Let’s try living with what millions of teachers teach every day to our children – tolerance and kindness.

Make a list of what you care to change in our country. Educate yourself to the candidate you believe will make those changes. Be respectful to the candidates that have other priorities at the top of their list. If you don’t agree with the life choices a candidate has made simply state that fact and understand that it is the behavior and maybe not the person that you resent. We are all more than our worst mistakes. Ask yourself if you feel your candidate would be a good leader to represent The United States. Support the President whether you voted for him or not because you still care about making this nation a better place for our children and you care about teaching tolerance and working with others for the good of our nation despite different political,social or religious beliefs. Let’s put our freedom to good use and accomplish something.

We are all teachers and our children are watching.

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