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.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”