GUEST COLUMN: Presidential speech drew district-wide feedback
September 12, 2009
Dear Weld Re-4 Windsor Severance Community,
I have heard our community’s thoughts and beliefs on a variety of issues throughout my career in this district, and I would not have predicted that a presidential speech would give me the opportunity to hear from so many educators, parents and community members. This speech directed at school children has stirred up some intense conversations. Our 4, 071 students have been at the center of this controversy.
Parents’ viewpoints have ranged from one side of the continuum to the other. Some adamantly feel that this speech has political overtures and should not be shared with students while other parents feel that a presidential speech to our children mandates the viewing by every student. Teachers and administrators as well have also shared some of the same feelings. Some educators have told me they are not comfortable presenting the speech while other educators have told me they feel that not showing a live broadcast is a type of censorship. Community members as well have differing opinions. Passion for what one believes has been demonstrated by everyone.
The district did not show the broadcast live partly because of the developing controversy. Effective teaching practice involves planning a lesson, and by previewing the speech that generated controversy, teachers could then be better prepared to conduct a lesson and also allow parents to opt out their children. Additionally, our present bandwidth does not have the capacity to support multiple connections to the speech (However, wehave been working to improve it.). We do have cable connections in some classrooms, but not all schools which collectively create some inabilities to view the speech live. Our teachers need to be able to have access to the speech as well as have the time to prepare a lesson and an alternative assignment if needed.
Our technology department has provided a copy of the speech presentation on another server, and so teachers are able to access it to utilize this presentation if they choose in a format that best meets students’ needs. I know that lessons are being planned that fit the level of the child. For example, some elementary teachers will show the speech and focus on the president’s remarks on goals. Students will then develop their own learning goals following the presentation and discussion. An alternate assignment will be available. I was able to watch a middle school lesson in which the text of the speech was used for a critical thinking exercise.
Students discussed the pros and cons of the speech and inferred why there has been controversy. Students then read the speech and analyzed it to support their theories. The discussion involving both pro and con was dynamic and respectful.
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This teacher’s lesson provided students a rich learning opportunity at a high level. Additionally, there was an alternative assignment using a current event in the newspaper for parents who wanted to opt out their children.
One positive outcome of this speech is the active dialogue we have had in our community. We have always placed our children’s education as a high priority. We must continue to talk and work together. Our students must be critical thinkers in order to be successful in the 21st century. For this to occur, they will need a variety of resources and practice in order to be problem-solvers. We must continue to work together, acknowledge and respect our differences of opinion when they occur, and work through them in order to provide what we need for each and every student.
I thank those of you who have taken time to contact me regarding this issue and others. I respect your beliefs as we work together to provide quality education.
Karen Trusler is the superintendent of the Windsor-Severance R-4 School District.