As a government teacher, what responsibilities have you had in relation to your students?
I think there are a lot of different rules from a content government standpoint -- there’s the making sense, logistically, of what actually happens [in the election], why that happens, what’s the historical context, what are the implications, and what we can expect, or what we’re uncertain about. So there’s a very academic portion, which I think is important, no doubt, but I think that especially in a big election, or development, or current event like this, there’s the other part of it where, as a teacher, your role is [to be] an influential adult in students’ lives. Sometimes you’re [having those conversations] with students more than maybe they are with their parents, and I think it’s about being a guide and example of how to digest good or bad news, and thinking about how we behave and think and talk -- how is that going to shape what kind of adults we develop? And to be honest, I’m relatively young -- I haven’t been an adult for super long, you know? So there are a lot of things that I’m constantly learning about. And you can talk to any 40 or 50 year old, and they don’t have all the answers either. If it was simple and there was a manual, the world would be a lot easier and better. So teachers are learning, teachers are struggling, teachers are emotional, and we’re just trying our best to be our best selves and really try to be there for students who don’t feel safe, students who are coming from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. I see my role as trying my best, being honest, being vulnerable, letting people know I don’t have all the answers, and trying to be a good example, but knowing that all I can do is try my best, and there will be parts where I fail, and I can’t change or fix anything. I can’t fix a lot of things. So I think it’s just being there, giving space for people to process [what happens], rather than saying “You still have to do XYZ”. We accomplish so much stuff already at Cupertino that I think the focus should be on making sure kids are ok and that they’re able to express that in an environment where [we have] discussion rather than debate or arguments.
What have your students taught you?
I think that students today have so much more access to information than when I was in high school, so students have a lot more information, and it’s about trying to make sure that the information that they have is reliable, but I’m impressed by the resilience, the perspective, and the maturity that kids demonstrate. Obviously, that’s not 24/7, and I think there’s ways we can be thoughtful about social media, about how kids interact outside of the classroom, but I think that teachers need students just as much as students need teachers, and it helps give us hope and spirit to see compassionate, thoughtful, critical arguments and thoughts. I’ve always learned how to be a better person by interacting with students.
What was the reasoning behind the postponement of the AP Government exam?
My reasoning was: I think this was a big event that’s really pertinent to the course in general, so on a planning level, I think we probably should have anticipated or could have anticipated, regardless of the result, kids were going to be up late watching. I think to the planning credit, there was a fair amount of review time structured in, so people studying last minute or cramming should have still had time in class. I don’t think there was a clear right or wrong answer, I think it was important, from my perspective, to discuss it, and I wanted to honor the fact that students were organizing to advocate. Because that’s what we need. I think that AP Gov, beyond doing well on the test, is about how you become an active and critical citizen. And to do that, you have to organize with people, and when you organize and advocate, even if you don’t get what you want, say we didn’t postpone the test, there’s still value in that process. So I wanted to honor that regardless by making sure we had a thoughtful discussion about it, and I think it was also positive for the teachers to engage in that because teachers have very different perspectives and views, too, adn we can’t teach discussion and things if we don’t process it ourselves. So I think, yeah, we had passionate discussions, and it was really important to have those honest feelings put out there, and with any sort of decision, some people are going to be happy and some people aren’t going to be. But going through the process is good.
What kind of takeaway do you want all students to have, regardless of affiliations, in relation to the election?
I think that with gov, and with information being so accessible on news, it’s easy to get caught up with “politics is everything” and “everything is political”. And to some extent, that may be some useful ideology, of every choice you make having implications, and it’s good to recognize that. But at the same time, so much of our lives is also, or should be, not always focused on politics. At the end of the day, we’re people with a lot of hopes and fears and interests and passions and people that we love and care about. So my takeaway hopefully is that whatever happens, we still keep working to be better people, to create a better society, regardless if you agree with who’s leading, like who is elected. Because it would be flawed if Hillary won and people were like “oh I can relax now” but no, everyone has to continue to work on being better and fighting for what you think is right and having real discussion about what policies and decisions are going to result in those actual things you care about. The more we can continue to do that -- just be honest and look at issues -- rather than labeling people, the better, hopefully, our society will be. But it’s hard work, and it’ll take a long time. I think the thing I really like from our last reading [Howard Zinn’s “The Optimism of Uncertainty”] is that pessimism is a self---- prophecy. If you don’t believe something can happen, then you won’t take the first steps to make that happen, you won’t take those actions. So even if it feels impractical, even if it feels like you won’t see results, you always have to hold onto some sort of hope that people can change, that things can get better, and recognize that change takes a long time. We develop. Things that I’m able to do now, today, might be because, five or ten years ago I had certain exposures and conversations with people. Certain things I have as privileges that I might not think about today might be because people sacrificed their lives or their livelihoods so that I, as an immigrant, as children of immigrants, all these things can [influence] what I experience. And even from a spiritual perspective, when you pray for hope for something, that coming to fruition might not happen in your lifetime, but your hope for that and desire for that and willingness to take action for that might result in that for someone a hundred years from now. And I think there’s something really beautiful about that. It might seem foolish on a pragmatic level, like “well, you’re going to be dead”, but that’s what keeps me going. You’re not always going to see the fruits of your work. So I’m just doing my best to hold onto hope and trust.