deep thoughts

Teachers wonder if kids understood the inauguration's gravity

Bored-looking students at yesterday's Harlem Armory celebration.
Bored-looking students at yesterday's Harlem Armory celebration

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.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.