One of the best teachers I know had one of her best days in teaching when Barack Obama was inaugurated eight years ago.
Yes, you’re supposed to stick to the script in the classroom in this day and age. But veteran teachers know it’s better to go with the moment, and be spontaneous when something of importance is happening.
Recognizing what a momentous occasion a first Presidential inauguration would be in the lives of young children, she put everything else on hold and just let them watch the event on TV.
All of a sudden, a young African-American girl started drawing what she saw on the screen. With just a few swift strokes, she captured the scope of the scene, starting with the podium. A couple of other kids gathered behind her and watched her draw. The image was startlingly detailed and amazing.
The teacher soon recognized the value of having a classmate “tell” the story of the inauguration, through art, as being far superior to anything she could lecture them about. So she quickly brought larger pieces of paper to tape behind the first one, so that the little girl could work in the entire, broad spectrum of the inaugural scene. The imposing Capitol dome. The far-flung steps at either side. The rows and rows of crowds on down the Mall. The flags. The dignity and historical significance shone through.
The entire class gathered behind the young artist, murmuring about the image she was creating. Who knew she was such a great artist? A star was born. A memory was made that would stay with each of them always.
The teacher had to bite her lip to keep from crying. The little girl was recording for posterity a picture of the day that, for the first time, someone with skin her color was starting off on the most important job in the world, with the blessings of the whole nation behind him. The imagination and the dreams inside the minds and hearts of the children that that scene ignited were palpable.
Here’s hoping teachers everywhere will “get” what that teacher knew. To pass on the magic and majesty of the American dream of freedom and opportunity is the greatest privilege a teacher could ever know.
Here’s hoping teachers today capture the thrill of our Constitutional republic’s peaceful transfer of power . . . and let freedom ring in school!