Donald Trump Interrupted My Class Today

The tenth graders were working even better than expected while revising their poems this afternoon.  The classroom had that magical hum of focused students working intently on the task at hand.  I had expected this to be a challenging lesson – getting kids to use their notes to “make their poems better.”  It seems that many of the classes do not have much experience working independently to revise and edit, so I was pleased that it was going so well with this tenth grade class.  The university student volunteers and I wandered around the room reading poems and offering feedback.  

Suddenly, all of the students began talking excitedly at once in Vietnamese.  Everyone was off task.  A few were glancing at me with curious expressions.  I was quickly informed that one of the students had just announced that Donald Trump had won the US presidential election.  It was 2:30 in the afternoon here, the middle of the night back home.

After a few more minutes of letting students either talk about the election among themselves or continue working on their poems, we ended the class with a short discussion.  I wanted to hear their thoughts about the election.  I wanted to know why it was important to them and why I had yet to meet a single Trump supporter in Vietnam.

One boy said, “Isn’t it obvious?” in response to my question about why the election mattered to them.  It’s hard for these students to understand that, in America, many people don’t realize just how closely the rest of the world was watching this election.  

Other students said they were worried about the possibility of studying in the US disappearing with Trump in the White House.  They have heard the president-elect’s statements about Mexicans and Muslims, and wonder if Trump will find a reason to deny their entry to the US, taking away an opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families.

Some commented on how important the United States is to the  world economy.  They understand that when a country as rich and powerful as the US makes a big change, the ripple effects will lead all the way to Vietnam.  

One girl stood up and gave an impassioned speech, in English, describing Trump with words like racist, xenophobic and misogynist.  All forty-five students broke out in applause when she was finished.  These students, who live under a one-party system with predetermined elections, do not understand why America chose Trump.

Tomorrow morning I head to Malaysia for a workshop and some travel.  I have a feeling, however, that wherever I go I will be answering questions about what is happening in the US.  The whole world wants to know.

Comments (17):

  1. Tina

    November 9, 2016 at 09:13

    Safe travels Tim. I look forward to hearing how the “rest of the world” is responding to this election in the US. Tina

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 13, 2016 at 08:36

      I’m still asked about it every day.

  2. Bruce Yarnall

    November 9, 2016 at 09:18

    Tim, I wish I has an answer for that. I am not sure how much of it was pure dislike/distrust or Clinton since she has a lot of baggage. Trump mobilizing his base since older white males do get out an vote while Millennials did not vote as did large numbers of Hispanics and Black people (her support of the crime bill and super predator comments hurt her).
    Being in the US during this election season was scary since Trump would out right lie on multiple occasions and his supports didn’t seem to care, never mind his obvious attitude towards women.
    I think the white males of the USA are feeling threatened and left behind by changing economics, growing power of women and non-white men, changing marriage and gender norms (though Trump never seemed to have any issues with gay marriage – but he did pick Mike Pence as his VP). I hear a lot of talk about “America is changing,” “we need to take our country back”, “restore the constitution”, and “this isn’t the America I grew up in”
    What really scares me is that republicans control the house, senate and the white house so they can pretty much appoint anyone they want to the Supreme Court which will affect the country for decades to come.
    I am just thinking Elizabeth Warren for 2020. I would campaign for her .

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 13, 2016 at 08:42

      You’re right, the consequences of this election will last for decades. I told my Uber driver that I think America could learn something from Malaysia – so many different cultures, races and religions living together peacefully.

  3. Paula Agins

    November 9, 2016 at 09:37

    Somehow I just can’t get my thoughts together, or my emotions, to respond to this awful outcome.

  4. Cindy Cassidy

    November 9, 2016 at 12:46

    Your timing couldn’t have been better when posting this blog. Every other day I do an enrichment activity with a small group of 7th graders, and our focus for the last 6 weeks has been the election. Today, we looked at the electoral college and how Hillary Clinton was winning the popular vote, but the electoral vote looked otherwise. I also thought that I would share your blogpost and I prefaced the conversation with “take the opinion of the Vietnamese students out of the equation, but instead focus on WHY students in another country thousands of miles away CARE about a U.S. election and HOW this may have an impact on their lives. Every week when we do Current Events, my 3 presenters MUST answer the question, “Why do we need to care about this in the U.S. when it’s happening in another country. Your blogpost showed them exactly why!! (ALSO, my students were genuinely surprised that Vietnamese students were doing poetry AND editing/revising, just as they would be expected to do in the U.S.) As always, thank you for sharing your teachable moments so that we can share them to our students!

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 13, 2016 at 08:43

      So glad it worked out for you. Thanks for using my post to teach.

  5. Gail

    November 9, 2016 at 15:58

    Thank you Tim for sharing the reaction of your students. It was difficult for many to wake up this morning with the reality before us. Looking forward to your future posts.

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 13, 2016 at 08:44

      It’s a privilege to be watching this from abroad and hearing everyone’s reactions. I’ll share as much as I can!

  6. Lori

    November 11, 2016 at 07:25

    A teachable moment for sure……

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 13, 2016 at 08:46

      And I’m sure there are many more to come.

  7. Elaine T

    November 11, 2016 at 08:50

    Wow. It was had being here after the election, I think half the country (or actually more!) was in mourning.

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 13, 2016 at 08:48

      That’s what I’ve been hearing.

  8. Diane Weisman

    November 13, 2016 at 09:54

    I hope you’re having fun in Malaysia, actually you may have returned to Vietnam by now. I’ll bet you have been hard pressed not to talk American politics in the last four days.
    Not only is a good part of the world as well as our country in shock, but so much hatred and racism is occurring in schools by student’s who are showing signs of white supremacy antics. It is frightening for the children of liberals and immigrants. Not so sure if I feel fortunate to be witnessing so much history being made. However, I am excited to see the moon at it’s closest proximity to earth since 1948. Be well my friend.

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 23, 2016 at 01:36

      I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations about the elections. Some people are very concerned while others think that Trump won’t do most of what he says. I had a long conversation with a college student who is reconsidering his plans to go to the US for graduate study. He doesn’t feel it would be safe to be a foreigner there now.

  9. Marika Heughins

    December 14, 2016 at 19:35

    It’s a day that none of us will forget. Most of us are still walking around in shock…

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 16, 2016 at 06:43

      As is the rest of the world.


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