The historic events on Inauguration Day Jan. 20 were also center stage in teacher Renee Vernon's second grade classroom at Walnut Grove Elementary School. "Ms. V," as she is affectionately called by her roomful of 7- and 8-year-olds, shelved her lessons for the day and leveraged the moment for its momentous learning opportunities.
A bright, personable second-year teacher, who is a product of Pleasanton schools, Vernon represents the new generation of community leaders President Barack Obama talked about in his inaugural address, which Ms. V's kids watched. Then she engaged them in a discussion about what they heard, saw and thought, assembling the 20 youngsters in a community circle to share their feelings.
Their responses brought home the fact that not only was it history in the making for all of us on Tuesday but that these second-grade students showed that they really understood the significance of what we experienced together, as well as their role in the future.
She typed up a brief synopsis and sent it home to the parents as a packet on Obama and the inauguration so that they could further discuss it with their child. According to Ms. V's report, the second-graders' feelings on the inauguration were:
* Good because it is teaching me a lot of things.
* Happy because Obama is the first African-American president.
* Happy for Obama because he gets to move into the White House.
* Ecstatic because Obama is going to be a good president and it is the dawning of 4 or 8 years of light.
* Ecstatic because we have a brand new president.
* Happy because he may help us get out of this recession.
* Good because Obama is a responsible person that will take care of our country.
* Brave and proud because we have a new president.
* Curious if Obama will stop the war or keep it going.
* Nervous because I don't know if he will stop the war but happy because I think he will.
* Happy because it was the first time seeing the inauguration.
Particularly relevant was Obama's comment that "children are our future," and what he meant by that. Several of the students answered:
* As we get older, we can try to make better choices.
* We are little now and when we get older we can change the world and the way things are with our choices.
* When we get older, others will pass away, so it's us kids that can change the world.
* We know what has happened when we are children so we know what not to do as we get older.
Bill Radulovich, who is the principal at Walnut Grove, a California Distinguished and National Blue Ribbon school, sent me Renee Vernon's summary, saying she is a wonderful example of the generation that sits on the historical continuum, midway between older folks and the kids. That this happened in a second-grade classroom speaks to the magic that can be produced when a masterful teacher marries relevant, timely content with engaging methodology.
"It elevates the cognitive processes that make our species so unique," Radulovich told me.
It also demonstrates how bright our future may be if we teach our children well.