Saturday, 2:15 PM
In her own words: Teacher moved by students' joy over Obama win
By Felicia Kazer
Boston teacher Felicia Kazer tells how Barack Obama's election transformed McCormack Middle School in Dorchester the day after the historic vote, stirring excitement, a sense of possibility, and unbridled joy in her students.
Wednesday was a great day to be a teacher.
The excitement started as soon as I entered the school in the morning. It turns out that a small group of students arrived before classes started to decorate our hallways with Barack Obama posters.
They had photocopied pictures of Obama's face. Under it they had written one word: "President."
By the time the rest of the student body arrived, our whole school had been plastered with these signs.
At 7:14 a.m., the hallways at my school looked very familiar: crowded, hectic and loud. Only on this morning, students weren't ignoring their teacher's requests to get to their homerooms because they were too busy gossiping about shoes or TV last night or one another.
Instead, they were simply too busy to get to class on time because they were all talking politics with their friends. It was stunning to overhear conversations between eighth-graders that included words like: electoral votes, democracy, and ballots. And it wasn't just a few kids -- it was all of them.
Felix, the tallest and coolest eighth-grade boy in homeroom 8F, came into our room with six Obama buttons on his sweatshirt. And as if this wasn't enough, he set the school trend for wearing the Obama posters that were once hanging all over the hallways. One minute he was asking to borrow some tape and the next minute the Obama printouts were all over his (and then all the other boys') torsos.
Meanwhile, I looked around my homeroom and had a shocking realization: This is a room filled with 13-year-olds, and all of them are in a good mood. But knowing how much their moods fluctuate during the course of a day, I was sure that by last class block the excitement would have subsided.
I was wrong.
I picked up 8C from lunch and on the way back to class I had to remind Lexxi that it wasn't appropriate hallway behavior to chant, "Obama, Obama, Obama" as loudly as she could.
By now, I had realized that my lesson on chemical formulas would be a hard-sell for such an over-stimulated and over-tired afternoon crew, so I decided to make them a deal.
"If we get all our work done this afternoon, we will spend the last 20 minutes of the day watching Obama's victory speech,'' I told them. "However, if we don't work efficiently, we won't have enough time."
When else would this be a successful incentive for adolescent children: If
you work hard, I'll let you listen silently to a grown-up give a long speech about our political process.
I couldn't believe it worked, but it did. The class only got off track a couple of times and I was easily able to refocus them by providing one simple reminder: "President Obama would want us to get our work done."
As promised, at the end of the period we closed our chemistry books and tuned in to hear our next president give his victory speech. The first bell even rang and no one packed up their things.
Not only did they listen to Obama's speech intently, but a few times they began
cheering so loudly I had to pause the speech and remind them that a class was taking place next door.
You remember this part of Obama's speech Tuesday night: "This victory is not my victory. This is your victory.''
To this, Vianca (one of my most chatty girls) said out loud: "Yeah, it's my victory!"
I looked around at the room of 28 students -- all of whom are people of color -- and I saw the future teachers, doctors, artists and presidents of this country. I almost started crying all over again.