Students struggle to find a way forward after their classroom’s election.
Illustration by Jon Reinfurt
“OK, class, your votes are in.”
As Ms. Allen counted the final ballots, I laid my head on my desk, my heart pounding like a bass drum in my ears. I had never cared about class elections before, but this year was different. My best friend, Alexis, was running for class president, and I was her campaign manager.
“It was a close call, but our new class president is … Danielle Evans!” Ms. Allen announced.
My heart dropped into my belly and everything froze. “Danielle Evans? She can’t be serious!” I screamed inside. Danielle didn’t take anything seriously, especially this campaign. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run over and hug Alexis. I wanted to spit at Danielle and her friends as they gave each other high fives and fist bumps. Instead, I just sank down in my chair.
The next morning before class, Ms. Allen was in the hallway greeting students. Inside the classroom, Danielle and her friends bounced around, still celebrating their win and chanting, “Danielle! Danielle!”
Danielle stood in front of the class. “As your president, I declare this day National Nacho Day. Everyone needs to buy me, your new president, some nachos. Sorry, Alexis!” Taylor, Danielle’s campaign manager, made the letter “L” with his thumb and forefinger and stuck it in Alexis’ face. “Loser!” he hissed.
I couldn’t help myself, “Shut up, Taylor! Just because your side won doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk about it!”
The room exploded in chaos.
“Ooooh! They’re mad now.“
“Who wants nachos, anyway? Alexis was going to help us get an aquarium for our classroom!”
“There’s no way Alexis could have done that!”
“You want to fight about it?!”
Ms. Allen rushed into the classroom. “Class, class, class! Everyone take your seats, now!”
She was using her “I-mean-business” voice, so everyone sat. But I was still mad.
“Listen, I know many of you put a lot of hard work into the campaign,” Ms. Allen said. “Some of you are happy about the outcome, and some of you are disappointed. It’s OK to feel happy or bad or concerned about what’s next, but in this classroom, we will respect each other. Is that understood?”
A few of us nodded and others said, “Yes, ma’am.” It felt good for her to notice how I felt and to mention the hard work I had done.
“I have an idea!” Ms. Allen grabbed a marker and wrote “First 100 Days” on the board in big letters. Ms. Allen always comes up with crazy ideas. I wondered what this was all about.
“Every time we elect a new president, they come up with a plan for their first 100 days in office. This way, people know what to expect from that person. Today we are going to make a 100-day plan for our classroom, a plan for how we will treat each other. Does anyone have ideas?”
I wanted to raise my hand and say, “No being a jerk, Taylor,” but I knew that would start another fight and then we would be fighting all year. Instead, when Ms. Allen called on me, I said, “We should treat each other like friends even though we want different things.”
“We can do nice stuff for people in town like visiting the nursing home or planting trees,” Alexis offered.
“Yeah, and we help each other in class too. My mom always says it’s nice to hold the door open for people.”
“And let’s only use our names when we talk to each other. No mean words.”
“I have an idea,” Danielle said. “If people really want the aquarium, we could still try to do that.” Alexis smiled at that, and that made me smile too.
The class continued to buzz with ideas, and Ms. Allen wrote them on the board. We made a poster that stayed in our room the rest of the year and we tried our best to stick to the 100-day plan.
Things weren’t perfect, but our plan gave us good things to expect from ourselves and our classmates. It was a way to remind each other what we wanted our classroom to be: a place where we respect one another even though we want different things.
>> Inspired by the First 100 Days plan Ms. Allen made with her class? Create one with your own students!
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