By Claire Buesser, SED 2016
Written February 7th, 2014
President Obama recently gave his State of the Union Address. Eloquently written and remarkably presented, our country’s leader presented his goals and reflected on the progress (or lack thereof) his administration has made this past year. Amidst the planned pauses, the “please stand now” moments, and the impassioned pleas for equality, Obama weaved in clear messages to Congress and to Americans: Obama is fed up with Congress’ childish stalemates, and he thus promises to enact executive orders. He seemed to be saying “I have some pretty good ideas, and if you are all too stubborn to accept my ideas, I will find a way to get ‘er done!” I may not agree with all of Obama’s ideas, but I do share his admonishment at the stagnant nature of the Congress. I mean, a government shutdown? Really? Can’t you people agree on anything?
I bring politics into this discussion to highlight the parallels between the state of our union and my own education views. I want my future classroom to be a place for debate, discovery, compromise, and progress. But what I fear is that my classroom could become like the modern Congress – stubborn, unrelenting, and proud.
I want my students to form and reshape their world views in healthy ways. Sometimes politicians are judged for changing their stances – but what is the point of being a learned person if you stop learning and adjusting your personal frameworks? At what point should I decide to maintain my views until I die? I want to share this passion for learning and development with my students. From the most basic level, I want to challenge their views…but they have to be open to altering their schemas. We must create an environment in which students feel comfortable sharing their views, and then we can debate, posit, and consider. And then we may come to an agreement. But should we find that there is not one right answer to our question (i.e. moving from “why is the sky blue” to “what is courage?”), we must not view this as the end of our progress; rather, it is our signal to continue developing our ideas.
I want to show my students that we can make progress even amidst differing opinions; and we can do so without the need for executive orders. Naturally, as “president” of my class, I will have to strike the gavel occasionally. But as teachers, must we only act as master of the class? Can we have discussions with, not just to, our students? I think this is a large component of Obama’s frustrations: he wants to participate in meaningful discussions with his fellow “classmates” rather than yell at them for disobedience. Clearly, Obama’s administration does not adhere to a common class rule: “leave it at the door.” If you have alternate agendas, or worries like voter turnout or family bickering, try not to let that affect your engagement in the class (or Congress); rather, allow yourself to be present. I, in turn, plan on voting for my students. I will demonstrate my support as we work through the politics of elementary school and the politics of America.
What kind of President will you be? Will your Congress support each other or will they halt all progress? As teachers, we must model positive leadership and inspire collaborative learning; after all, the next president may be sitting in your classroom.
*Claire Buesser is a sophomore at Boston University School of Education studying elementary education.