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Teachers wonder if kids understood the inauguration's gravity

All over the city yesterday, teachers interrupted their lessons so they could watch the inauguration with their students. Last night, a number of them blogged about their experiences, which ranged from exhilarating to disappointing.

At Is Our Children Learning?, elementary school teacher Ruben wrote that his kids didn’t seem to understand why they were watching TV during the school day:

There’s nowhere else I’d rather have been, nor a more special location I can think of, than with my students. …

I wish I had more time last week to prepare my kids for today. While there was a palpable excitement throughout the school, it was clear that much of the real, historical significance was lost on the students. They clapped and cheered at pretty much all the appropriate moments, but when it was time for the important parts, they were just plain bored. As one student said to me when Barack began his inaugural address, “These words is for lawyers.” I myself was pretty moved, but I can imagine how much of the language could be lost on 1,000 K-5 students, most of whom are a couple of grades behind in reading and writing.

Below the jump, reactions from four more teacher-bloggers, whose students ranged from attentive to angry during the inauguration.

JD2718 reported on tech problems at his small high school in the Bronx:

One of the rooms never went up. Around 11:30 – 11:45 another room went down, and then another. We shifted kids into rooms with video. We lost more rooms, and more shifting. Just before noon we lost more. We were down to half our rooms. But the kids packed in. And then we watched.

With the words “congratulations Mr. President” there came applause over the PA. But it was drowned out by the applause in the room. Then the speech started. Some kids slept. Most listened. A few fidgeted. Some listened intently.

At Confused NYC Teacher‘s school, some students were respectful and reverent, but others acted like they didn’t care about seeing history in the making:

An odd thing happened when the classical music was played–the kids became very calm and placid and many became more interested in what was going on. (I guess classical music really can soothe!) The global teacher and I were watching and they went from being all thugged out to more interested in the events. During the benediction, some more kids calmed down and even bowed their heads. Others, got up and left the room saying “F*ck this $hit”. It was very sad to see how so many of them just didn’t get it. It was even sadder to hear the Special Ed teacher yelling at kids to keep quiet and stop playing and to stop banging on her door. She was visibly upset. I hope they get how monumental this event really was later on.

Mildly Melancholy, who left teaching earlier this month, wondered whether her former students remembered learning about the Presidential Oath:

Speaking of history, that’s what I was teaching for the last four months. The first week back from break, we were examining the Constitution. I made sure to have the students locate the Presidential Oath–“These are the words that you will hear Barack Obama speak, words that were written over two hundred years ago.” Though these kids were pretty obsessed with Mr Obama, they didn’t seem too interested in the connection between past and present, the living document the Framers created that still directs everything the country does. Will they remember that class? Will they remember me?

And after the feed went down at her school, Ms. M at NY Teacher found a classroom with a working computer:

We all huddled around the computer and watched silently as the volume wasn’t that great. The cutest part was when the kids joined in singing the national anthem. The whole thing will definitely be an experience I remember forever.

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