“Teacher, What Do We Do?” #DayWithoutI...

“Teacher, What Do We Do?” #DayWithoutImmigrants

Photo by Fibonacci Blue |

On Thursday, February 16, many shops and restaurants around the U.S. are planning to close their doors in solidarity for a “Day Without Immigrants.” This grassroots demonstration is aimed to gain the attention of the higher ups and everyday people, to highlight how much the livelihood of the country’s economy and social structure relies on immigrants.

“Day Without Immigrants” is planned to take place in major U.S. cities such as Austin, Texas, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. Participants plan to stay home from work and school as part of a strike. The planned protest has stirred a bit of confusion among younger students wanting to participate, with School Districts urging students to ‘go to school’.

What do we tell the kids?

As a staff member at an elementary school in a primarily hispanic neighborhood of Los Angeles, I was not surprised to get an automated call from Alma Pena-Sanchez, Los Angeles Unified School District’s chief of staff urging students and teachers to go to school regardless of the planned strike. The call indicated that we should use school hours for discussion in open forums.

“While we respect everyone’s right to have their voices heard and to participate in civic action such as protest, all students and staff are encouraged and expected to come to school,” Pena-Sanchez said.

The call was actually really well-composed, which is not always the case, and inspired me to start thinking about what I would say to my students — an ongoing theme this year, since the Trump campaign turned into the Trump presidency.

I’ve found that I’ve had to step in as a soother of confusion, fear and frustration, even when I was feeling all of those same emotions. The questions coming from eight and nine year olds of ‘what was going to happen now’,  ‘is there really going to be a wall’ and ‘am I going to be deported’ are disheartening, to say the least.

Though my heart still hurts, hearing these questions from my students — I feel hopeful. With The Women’s March, the protesting of Cabinet Picks and now a “Day Without Immigrants” help give me the strength to face the hard and inevitable questions that I will face at work. My job is to make the students I see, regardless of their background, feel valued, safe and to inspire individuality and growth. And, on a day of protest, like today, I shall do just that.


About Shelby Newallis

Ciao, there. I'm Shelby, your classic recent-ish grad stereotype trying to figure out how to make it in Los Angeles. By day, I'm a Special Education Teacher and by night, I'm a TV serialist, culinary enthusiast, writer/editor. When I'm not planning my next trip, I'm either wikipedia-ing random celebrities, trying to figure out which podcasts are cool or researching new happy hour spots. Intrigued? Check out my website,