Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Obama’s Speech Update: As it turns out…

By on September 8, 2009

…nobody needed to worry about the contents of the speech, because our limited technology couldn’t stream the darn thing anyway! I just wish it hadn’t happened in front of the press.

Yes, it’s true. 5 minutes before the start of school today, I got a call from my principal asking if a reporter and photographer could come see the speech in my room and talk to some of the students. “Sure,” I shrugged, wishing I hadn’t been in a “jeans sorta mood” today.

Anyway the reporters showed up, I did my little introduction to the students about the reason it’s important that our president is reaching out to them, the reason it’s important to create united memories, so on and so forth. At precisely 9:00 PST, just as I was about to click on the site to watch the president, my VP, in one of his finest moments of untimely glory, got on the PA system for morning announcements. And just as Arne Duncan introduced the president of the United States, we in San Gabriel were launching into our pledge of allegiance, making it impossible to hear the White House feed. So I hit pause until the pledge ended.

Finally, I clicked play on the live feed. And the worst thing possible happened, the darn stream wouldn’t, like, stream. Obama would start, stop, start stop. So I scrambled. In amongst the stops and starts, I heard the line, “do yourselves proud.” So I honed in on that line and had them journal about it what it means to make yourself proud. Bottom of the barrel Quickwrite, I know, but I was out of Plan B, C, and D.

So many people were worried about the content that the students would see, it never occurred to any of us that we didn’t even have the resources in the school to watch it live.

Anyway, in the end, the reporters came back during 6th period and we watched it courtesy of a pre-recorded MSNBC.com video. I had the students keep a list of commentary, that tickertape constantly running in their own brains, that is their own live speech simultaneously going on while the president’s speech was happening.

My commentary suggestions followed my CPR Commentary philosophy (something I’ve been developing to help students differentiate evidence vs. commentary): Connect to Self/World/Media, Predict, Relate to Simile/Metaphor. It takes some explanation (post to come), but it gave my students guidance when note taking.

The students related to many points in the speech, most them agreeing that it was sometimes difficult to prioritize school higher than some of the difficulties outside of school.  They pulled quotes, they rewrote phrases that stood out in their own words.  It turned out to be valuable, but man, was it on the fly!

I figure at this point whatever angle the reporters take on the day’s events will be valuable. After all, they  got the story they initially wanted. But they also saw the other moments that also fill our days in education, the scrambling moments, the moments when Ed tech doesn’t work, the spontaneous discussions, the interruptions, and the flexibility of a frustrated teacher.

In the end, I asked if their article was going to be different in the end than they had originally planned. “Yes,” one of the visitors said. “And we’ll definitely mention the need for more funding for technology in the schools.”

But with Ed tech funding for EETT having just been cut by 63%, perhaps someone should tell the president. After all, watching the president speak is not a waste of instructional time, but struggling to watch the stream sure was.

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