As States Count Ballots, Here's What Indiana Teachers Are Talking About With Students

Nov 9, 2020

An election worker in St. Joseph County packages and stores ballot envelopes as part of the ballot counting process.
Credit Justin Hicks / IPB News

As key states continue counting votes to determine the winner in the race for president, Indiana teachers are busy fielding questions from their students. Teachers say students are curious about a lot: like how the electoral college works, why results are taking so long – even asking about their political views. 

Mariah Pol is a social studies teacher in Michigan City. She said her students are more interested, and more emotional about this year's election.

"All the different issues that have been hot topics in this election affect them in some way shape or form more than just like, economically," she said.

Pol said she's talked a lot about empathy in her class, and about the importance of working alongside people with different political views.

Franklin Central High School teacher Susan Tomlinson said she appreciates the civil discussions her students have in class about different election topics and issues. She said this week, some are noticing the amount of misleading or false information going around. 

She's been questioning the information students bring to class, with the goal that they think more critically about things they see and share.

"Where the information is being generated and how it can be verified, and I think some students are doing a better job of that – in fact sometimes I think students are doing a better job of that than adults," she said.

Indiana teachers are required by law to teach about the presidential election process and how it all works. But Tomlinson, Pol, and others say they want students to understand other things too: like how to get involved in elections – even if they can't vote yet. 

Marie Theisz is a teacher who was elected to the Vigo County Council this week. She said she wants students to get involved how they can, and understand why every vote matters – especially in a tight presidential race and at the local level. 

"Even using your voice to encourage friends, family, people that you know to get out there. Because honestly with COVID, looking at a lot of these races especially at the state and local level, the power of the word of mouth was huge this year," she said.

And while some teachers say they're willing to share who they voted for and talk with students about their own political views, others tell their students: "ask again after you graduate."

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.