California Educator

January / February 2017

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understand that democracy takes many forms — and only some of what happens is through the ballot box . For example, we did not vote away slavery or vote in women's rights or GLBT rights. They were drafted as legislation and signed into law because movements forced the hands of elected repre- sentatives through protest and advocacy. You have to look at the entire process." Many of Ochoa's students are eligible for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), an executive order issued by President Obama in 2012 allowing undocumented students to attend school and work. There is fear President Trump may repeal it. ( The DREAM [Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors] Act, which would have granted legal status to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, failed to pass in Congress. Some "Dreamers" are eligible for DACA. In many cases, Dreamers have lived and gone to school here and identify as American.) Ochoa's students wrote letters to Trump, and all of them began with congratulations. "My parents are undocumented and neither of them are murderers and rapists like you claim all immi- grants are," wrote one student. " They came to this country looking for a better future because life back home wasn't good. If it weren't for my parents immigrat- ing, I wouldn't have the opportunities for a better life. I am excited yet terrified to see what you will make of this country and my family." Another student described being "angry and depressed" at the election outcome and frightened by the accompanying violence. "I'm not scared anymore. If your policies hurt anyone, you best believe I will be out there in the streets, protesting for what I believe is right." Tracy Pope, a teacher at Cabrillo Middle School in Silicon Valley, also thought it would be cathar tic for students to write letters to Trump. Some shared depor ta- tion fears; others expressed anger over his treatment of women or global concerns. "A great number of students wrote about his tendency to shoot from the hip when he speaks," says Pope, United Teach- ers of Santa Clara. " They told him they are worried he'll say the wrong thing to world leaders and get us into a war or some other situation with dire consequences." WHAT TO TELL STUDENTS? Because so many students were upset about the election results, Pope broke her own rule and shared who she had voted for: Hillary Clinton. But she worried about being insensitive to children whose families sup- ported Trump, and encouraged them to speak with her. At times, she felt she was venturing into uncharted territory. "It was such a bizarre campaign, I didn't know what to tell them at times," she admits. " Trump promises to build a wall and deport people. I don't want to make promises about what might or might not happen and see that promise get broken. But I also want my students to feel safe. So I read them my Facebook post: 'All of us here would do any- thing and everything we can to keep you safe and protect you. OMG we love you because at Cabrillo, we are family.' " Students taught by Claire Merced, a teacher at San Francisco's Thurgood Marshall Academic High School, were part of a wave of teens immigrating from Central America two years ago. Most live with relatives and are eligible for DACA. During classroom discussions, she reminds them that San Francisco is a sanctuary city; she tells them daily to focus on their studies and academic future, keep up school attendance and avoid trouble. "I believe in their potential to become absolutely produc- tive in our community," says Merced, United Educators of San Francisco. "I advise them not to engage in anything that "Some said that they feel disenfranchised, that democracy doesn't function for them. But I want students to understand that democracy takes many forms — and only some of what happens is through the ballot box." — Kiki Ochoa, San Diego Education Association Left to right: San Ysidro High School counselor Elvia Estrella, Lincoln High School history teacher Kiki Ochoa, and Cabrillo Middle School educator Tracy Pope. (Photo of Pope by Mike Myslinski) 48 teaching & learning history teacher Kiki Ochoa, Left to right: San Ysidro High

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