Educators call for compassion amidst inauguration conversations

The Inauguration of President Joe Biden was unlike any before it for many reasons, prompting several classroom discussions that will continue into future semesters. Professors and student-teachers described their plans to cover the topic and offered advice for both students and educators.

Ashley Richey, a senior secondary English education major from Granite City, Illinois said she’s working on a lesson for her high school students that draws historical parallels from the Civil War era to today.

“We’re in a Civil War unit right now, so I thought it would be perfect, you know, with everything going on, to talk about … the history we’re witnessing,” Richey said. 

“I’m planning a lesson, I’m talking about the Gettysburg address, so we’re going to have a lesson about Abraham Lincoln’s speech during that, and we’re also gonna analyze the poet’s speech from the Inauguration.”

Political science professor Laurie Rice said while she won’t be teaching POLS 346 “The Presidency” this semester, she has a lesson planned for this fall examining the impact and relevance of past inaugural addresses. 

“One of the things we look at is political communication of presidents and the influence that can have on people,” Rice said. “So we analyze the texts of different addresses and discuss ‘How well do they fit with the pressing needs of the time’ and then ‘How do they fit with various models of presidential communication?’”

As the country enters a new presidential administration mere weeks after an attempted insurrection, some students may feel burned out by the onslaught of history they’re living through in the last month. Given Richey’s experience as both a student and student-teacher, she said teachers should do whatever they can to check on students, whether in person or online.

“I think honestly just being there for students … is the most important thing,” Richey said. “Even if it’s not them actually talking with us ... I think even just making a Google Form and asking students, ‘Tell me how you are today,’ ‘how are you feeling?’ … I think it’s just important to check in with them. I mean, we’re humans; they have feelings just like all of us do, so it’s just important to be there for them and hear their concerns.”

Polictial Science professor Theising said while he understands these events impact teachers and students alike, teachers should set good examples for students.

“I think it’s important that teachers model good behavior. I know that teachers are stressed just like our students are stressed. I feel it, I’m stressed,” Theising said. “It is important that we approach our work and our classrooms with compassion and understanding and realize that the humanity of everyone, teachers and students, must come first.” 

For more on the Inauguration, visit the White House website for a full transcript of Biden’s address.

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