Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration with Freshmen

I guess my school district didn't know when they made this year's calendar that the inauguration would be as important and phenomenal as it turned out to be, but man they made some poor scheduling choices. Yesterday was, yes, the inauguration, but it was also the last day of class before final exams. Fortunately, the 12pm EST oath-ing time translates to 9am here, which means that it's still during first block, AKA my prep period. So I got to choose how and where I watched (not exactly--I would have chosen to watch it live in DC, but that was definitely not an option).

I went to our department chair's classroom where she does have a first block, but our is also of the belief that everyone should see this. She gave the kids a review packet with the option to work on it or watch history. Most of the kids were unimpressed with the history option. On one hand, this apathy might be yet another reason for my faith in the youth of America to continue declining. But we have to remember that the last time these kids had the opportunity to see an inauguration, they were in fifth grade. And the last time a new president was inaugurated, they were six. So yeah, I can see why inaugurations in general don't mean too much. Beyond that, this is a class of English Language Learners, with the vast majority having moved to America only within the past few years or in some cases, the past few months. Of course they don't have the same sense of national pride and interest in this kind of change.

This is not to say that the kids worked diligently on their review packets and ignored the TV. I actually DID lose faith in this generation when M. asked who Aretha Franklin is. Most kids got the message that this is a big deal. Probably becase the four math teachers in the room harshly shushed them during Obama's speech (ooh, now I can say President Obama!). M. was of course still not without comment. Amid the applause at the speech's conclusion, M. turned to me with only this to say: "Man, he talks a LOT." Fair enough. So do you M., so maybe you'll be president one day.


Anonymous said...

I'm hoping that somewhere there were kids who were passionately fired up about the events of the day and realized that this is a great time in history. I was completely bummed out when I learned that two of the brightest sophomores in the community had mostly the same reaction as students in your school. The only difference was, the 4-H kids from here were watching it in the state capitol after having had breakfast with our state legislators. And yes, wasn't Aretha grand? Aunt Char

Linda said...

The kids here were great. WE had K-5 in the library tuned in and 6-8 in the MS commons. The kids were mostly quiet--a few cracks about who would name their kid "Yo Yo Ma" but during the swearing in even the littlest ones were pretty quiet. They even sat for the speech. We had applause at appropriate times. Of course one kid--4th grade no less--asked me if I thought that this would be on all the news channels or just CNN. All in all it was a wonderful day here. Kids actually put off eating lunch and/or skipped recess to watch from 11 until 1. It was a wonderful day.

According to my really sketchy sources, January 20 in Brazil is celebrated as "Our Lade of Happy Endings Day". Let's hear it for a happy ending and an exciting new beginning.

Linda said...

I just got a great story of kindergarten perceptions of the inauguration that seems appropriate to share with you.

After viewing the inauguration, the teacher here (the same one you had so long ago) asked the kids to draw something that they had gotten from the process. There are many scribbles with the word Obama in the middle and things like that. One is a very carefully drawn picture of a house (sort of White House-esque)with a brightly colored obelisk in front of it.

"Well," said the teacher, "that is very pretty. Can you tell me exactly what it means."

The little girl replied, "You see, now President Obama is moving into the Lighthouse."

You need to see the picture for full impact. I have already started interpreting it on many levels. As in "he is bringing light to the nation".

Credit said...

My first grade son got to watch the inauguration at lunchtime with his K-1 class and older kids. That evening when I picked him up at school he was on the phone talking to my wife (she was out of town). When she asked him how his day at school was, he responded, "Obama became president at lunchtime" It was so matter of fact and made me laugh.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

It was interesting - I had a long talk with C about it this morning - and he's only a year older than your kids. I think part of his feeling is that having been under W for so long he's grown really jaded. But when I told him how much Obama got done even in the first day, he really perked up.

He was less impressed by the whole "First African American President" thing because he thinks that should be the natural order of things - he can "get it" historically, but not morally, and I guess that's a good thing all in all.

I think it's not so much the inauguration issue for your Freshman, but maybe also that they haven't really had a president to look up to.

Oh, and C darned well knows who Aretha is. And Yo Yo Ma.