Inauguration—In The Classroom

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Media General News Service
Published: January 21, 2009

SEBRING, Fla. — In Julie Giordano’s government class, there are students who are deeply interested in politics.

“And some of them you have to drag along,” said the Sebring High School teacher. The Advanced Placement class watched Barack Obama’s inauguration Tuesday while they lunched on meatballs, macaroni and cheese, and brownies.

None was more moved than Tiara Pressley, a 17-year-old senior.

“I think I’m going to cry,” Tiara said. Her grandmother, Dorothy Davis, 73, was from Georgia, and lived through the Jim Crow years of segregated swimming pools and fountains.

“People spit in her face,” said Tiara. “She knows what it’s like to be judged unfairly.”

This year, Tiara said, is the first that she’s really tried to understand politics. She wound up on the Obama team, and felt she was part of something.

As Tiara was speaking, Obama strode into the sunlight, “Hail to the Chief” played for him, and everyone in the classroom stood.

As the new president began to speak, tears began to roll.

“This is the perfect storm,” Giordano –- a self-admitted political junkie -– told her students. “If you can’t get involved this year, well, what’s wrong?”

—GARY PINNELL, The Tampa Tribune

* * *

RICHMOND, Va.—On a normal day in an eighth-grade classroom, there’s no shortage of fidgeting, whispering and giggling. But yesterday, it was silent in Mrs. Wilcox’s Algebra I class at Tuckahoe Middle School. All eyes were on the television.

Regular class work halted as students at Tuckahoe — and across the nation — watched Barack Obama’s historic inauguration.

Many were mesmerized.

“This is something I’ll always remember. Even when I’m old — like 60 — I’ll remember sitting in math class watching this,” said eighth-grader Clay O’Keefe.

“We’ll be telling this to our kids and our grandkids,” said classmate Max Cannon.

Four- and five-year-olds in the preschool class at St. Joseph’s Villa were watching inaugural festivities during the morning. “We’re watching Barack Obama,” said one student named Semag.

“I think Barack Obama wins a trophy,” explained Megan.

Across campus in the Dooley School, high school students gathered around televisions.
Teachers invited parents and grandparents to explain to teenagers the significance of the day.

“Teens haven’t seen the struggle,” said Kenneth Foxworth, who was in class with his grandson, Charles Woodson. “They need someone to impress upon them how deep this really is.”

For much of the morning, the television was off in Clare Sisisky’s 12th-grade humanities class at Hermitage High School.

Students were discussing poetry written for past inaugurations. Line by line, they dissected the meaning of the works, connecting them to history, art and philosophy.

Will Bagby, a fifth-grade teacher at Beulah Elementary School in Chesterfield County, thought hard about how to use the televised inauguration to make a point to students.

“So many of our families have a vested interest in our new president. I’m asking the students to use a listening guide with discussion questions on key issues,” he said.

“They will be taking notes during President Obama’s speech in hopes that we can revisit these issues over time and think critically about the progress we, as a nation, have made.”

—Lisa Crutchfield, Richmond Times-Dispatch

* * *

BRISTOL, Tenn. – An energized and animated sixth-grade social studies teacher at Haynesfield Elementary used Tuesday’s presidential inauguration as a continuing part of her course on democracy – much to the delight of 16 thoroughly engaged pupils.

Teresa Brown, a black teacher who did not vote for President Barack Obama, began priming students last week with lessons on early Greek democracy. The lessons continued with the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., human rights, voting, representative government, inaugural facts and more.

As the inauguration moved forward, students watched on two television sets and one large screen at the head of the classroom.

“Martin Luther King was right there talking about his dream that one day blacks and whites would come together,” Brown told students with an elevated tone of voice somewhere between talking and shouting. “Has that dream come true?”

“Yes!” the students responded in unison.

“You’re watching the first black president in our nation’s history come into power,” she said while walking up one row and down another. “Where was Obama born? How many people attended Martin Luther King’s speech there? What’s his middle name? Can anybody tell me where his father is from?”

Using timing as a tool, Brown walked over to a wall where information was posted on receiving extra credit for answering a myriad of government-related questions. She did so just seconds before Obama stepped up to take the oath of office.

“Quiet! Absolute quiet!” she instructed. “Here we go!”

The second the swearing-in process was complete and America had its first black president, the students cheered and clapped.

Wasting no time, Brown immediately turned the volume down on the TVs and resumed her vocation.

“OK guys, what do you think? If he falls, we all fall. Now how can you support him?

—Gary B. Gray, Bristol Herald Courier

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