What we can learn from an inauguration

January 25, 2021

The lights came on after the seventh grade watched the inauguration in Mr. Armstrong’s Language Arts classroom. Their teacher had written tallies on the board next to books of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. Amos had two, Micah had one and Isaiah, three. “That was a Christian minister giving the invocation, but look how many references I caught to the Tanakh.” It was an extension of their Shakespeare unit, in which they have noted biblical references, as well references to Greek mythology.

I walked into first grade to see this image of Vice President Kamala Harris with the shadow of Ruby Bridges on the smart board.

Even at age 7, the students could understand the impact of Ruby, whose story they had studied in preparation for MLK Day. (Ruby had to be escorted by U.S. Marshalls to her all-white elementary school in 1960.) In each class, Mirowitz teachers were finding profound ways to connect the momentous inauguration with the learning that they are facilitating in other subjects.

We chose not show the inauguration live. Whenever there is the potential for language or events that are not appropriate for children, we don’t show live television. Our teachers waited until Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning, knowing that the proceedings had transpired without violence.

Teachers showed videos of swearing in ceremonies and discussed what it means to take an oath on a Bible. They addressed how we show respect to classmates who have varying political opinions, and how voting is personal and private. They talked about leadership skills and the commitment to our country that it takes to be a president. They discussed the impact of the speeches and music and, yes, poetry.

Teachers throughout the grade levels have ignited a renewed interest in poetry after teaching about the inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman.

Fourth graders are engaging in Socratic Dialogue to discuss the intention of the poet’s word choice. Other grades have written their own poems, inspired by the young poet.

Learning about the inauguration at Mirowitz is more than just exposure to historical ritual. Teachers challenge students to go deep, to engage their higher order thinking, and to enact our core values in the way they treat one another. May the future of our country and of our Mirowitz community be one of civility, success and unity.


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