Wednesday, August 27, 2008

the future potus

i fully believe i have taught the future president of the united states. it was 4 years ago during the last election when i was a first grade classroom teacher. i can no longer remember what year this little boy hopes to take office, but he has it all planned out. 4 years ago he was set to be the first african-american president. (last year he emailed me with a dilemma. how could he vote for obama if he wanted to be the first african-american president himself?)

this little one is a child i'll remember for the rest of my life. my friends printed his emails out and put them up on their work bulletin boards because if a 6 year old out there believed in our country then they could to. he also showed me what passion and interest could do for a student.
he came into the class as a low to average reader. he did ok in math, but not overly great. but he was a happy six year old with a sharp curiosity about the way the world worked... and then we started covering the election and suddenly he exploded. his reading and math soared. his passion for learning about government took over our entire room, creating the most natural community i've ever had in a class.

he was obsessed with politics. people use to smile and say, "his parents must be telling him all of this" but his parents were coming to me, begging me to get him interested in something else- anything other than politics. "i've tried sports!" his father explained, "but he doesn't care! all he talks about are presidents and senators!"

he wrote a book explaining the senate to my class. he wrote another book about how ted kennedy was his favorite senator. (i know, i know, but i wasn't about to steer him one way or the other. i let him enjoy his opinions). later, when he'd moved away to another state he sent me an email saying he was writing a new book for his class on why the white house would look better without george w. bush. he had moved to a southern state where i fear this book was most likely not well received. i wish he'd sent me a copy though.

his best friend (the only caucasian child in the class) became a stanch bush supporter. the two would get into political arguments constantly. on the playground a teacher ran up to me and said, "um, there are two kids in a fight over there, but one is yelling 'lame duck' and the other is yelling 'nixon lover' ". yes, that would be my class.

we had to come up with some class rules. if you were going to say something negative about george w. bush (he was still our president after all- i don't care who you wanted to win) you had to have a reason. you could not say, "he is a big fat dummy" or "he is so dumb he could be in headstart". you had to say, "i do not like him because..." and give a reason for why you did not like him. this solved the problem for one day because they couldn't think of any good reasons. the next day this rule lead us into an engaging debate about reaganomics and the trickle-down theory. i was just trying to teach addition, i swear.

one day i lost it in the hallway because two kids wouldn't stop talking. when i went over to give them the 'teacher of death' look i realized they were in a very heated debate over who was the better president, george w bush or abraham lincoln. and they were giving reasons for their opinions. we had a quick talk about appropriate places to have such discussions, but how could i yell at 6 year olds for such high-level thinking?

during morning meeting my future potus would bring in the front page of the newspaper to share. he'd want to go over the headlines and discuss the state of the nation. (the most unfortunate side of this was when michael jackson was on the cover... he wanted to discuss if he was a boy or a girl)

he was really obsessed with john edwards. kerry was ok, because he was a democrat, but edwards was his man. he knew everything about him (i am heartbroken that edwards has become just another politician... my future potus based his world around edwards).

i'd come home with stories about what the future potus was writing in writing workshop and my husband (boyfriend at the time) would get so upset and tell me facts i could take back to potus to encourage debate. i'd have to remind him that the future potus was only 6. we had to be amazed he even knew what the senate was.

he wore a 'suit' once a week. black pants and a navy-blue blazer, and his john kerry pin, even in march, long after the election. he knew he would be president, he needed to start dressing the part now. he knew what it took to be president- you had to a citizen born in this country. he was aware that he was a citizen born in this country and would discuss that frequently. this started discussions on who in our class could be president and who could not. we stopped that discussion quickly (or tried to, i'd find them discussing it during free time)since at my school few children are eligible for president under such rules.

after he'd moved away he would email me whenever ground-breaking political news occurred. he told me when rehnquist died, and emailed me to tell me all about scooter libby.

it was amazing this child who had entered the classroom as an average learner became such a leader in the class. he raised every one's critical thinking skills just by asking them their opinions and engaging them in debate.

listening to the convention coverage on the radio i'm getting nostalgic for my own classroom community. i want to do election activities with students. i want to do first-grade debates and have more long classroom meetings about, "well, what do you think? why?" i want to have another year where i'll have to explain to the librarian why all my children want to check out books on presidents ("any president but nixon, he's SOOOOO bad").

but i know a class like that doesn't come along every day. my little one proved to be quite a leader, a passionate individual who could state what he believed, stand up for what he thought was right, and worked hard even though some things didn't come as naturally to him as they did for other children. if he is not president one day, (and i know he will be) i'm sure he'll be using all of these leaderships skills to make our world better.

** i did ask him that if he becomes president, could i be the secretary of education? he said, "oh miss l, you don't want to just be a secretary!"

1 comment:

Kassia said...

What a moving story--it shows the motivating power of letting students explore their passions, and the power of a teacher who encourages this in her classroom! Thanks for sharing.