As a younger fellow, I was not actively engaged in American civics. Because my parents were not passionate about politics, we did not talk about on going elections or the state of the American government growing up. I had better things to do when I was a teenager. I had a job, school, and friends. I didn’t have time for politics back then, I thought. As I aged and matured like fine cheese or root beer, I started taking a hard look at the world around me, and cringed. What is happening to our climate? What is going on in the White House? I started paying attention and then became enraged and a bit upset. As the popular bumper sticker from the 1990s reads, “If you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention.” As I magically transformed into a caring and empathetic adult, I began to understand what that quote really meant. If you just look around, you will see the world for what it truly is, unfair and unjust. As I gently ripped the rose-colored glasses from my eyes, I started to become more interested in politics. I started paying attention to elections and who was running for political office. I began to exercise my civic responsibility and became one of those people the founders of our country wrote about in the Constitution. The people are the ones with the real power. We need to voice our concerns and speak up. We need to educate ourselves on the political process and vote. We need to be the change makers in our country. As I started paying attention to American politics, I became passionate about something. I looked at my role as a citizen in this country as something important. I’m a cog in this machine. I need to be sure that my views, thoughts, and opinions are heard. I will no longer stand in the darkness of ignorance and apathy, in what some Americans spend their entire lives.
As passion for our world and the way in which it works filled my soul, I started to realize that as a teacher, I need to use my power for good. I don’t want my students living in the shadow of doubt and apathy, as I did for too long. I want to spread the passion that I have to others. I want my students to understand how our government works. I want them to see that as citizens of this great country, we all have a civic duty to be sure that our country is operating the way in which we would like to see it operate. I want my students to grow curious about politics and crave more knowledge. I want them to pay attention to the world around them so that they can make a difference. As the future leaders of our country, I want my students to begin to gain passion for making a difference and taking charge of how our government does business. I want my students to begin to see the power in caring earlier than I did.
To help inspire my students to care and want to learn more about American politics, we discuss current events in our class every Friday afternoon. We talk about what’s going on in the world around them. I encourage them to talk to their families about these issues as well. My goal is for my students to begin to form their own opinions on issues like the environment, education, and equality. I share background knowledge with the students during these conversations so that they understand the why of what is going on. The students also share their thoughts on the current happenings in our world. I attempt to make these topics and this weekly block of time seem vital and necessary so that they begin to care about current events as well. I want them to watch or read the news, talk to others about issues in the news, and research current events to gain multiple perspectives. As we are more than halfway through the academic year at this point, students will come to school and share information about current events that they learned about on their own. It’s so cool.
As the Primary Election process has already begun with the completion of the interesting Iowa Caucuses taking place this past Monday, I wanted to take the opportunity to help my students understand the election process, political parties, and the candidates running. Although they can’t vote, I want them to wish they could. I want to foster a sense of passion within my students regarding politics and government. So, yesterday morning, I seized the opportunity to educate my students on the election process in our country. I gave them a general overview of how presidential elections are conducted in America. We then viewed and discussed a short video detailing the difference between conservative and liberal political ideologies. We talked about the two major political parties in our country. I made sure to leave my biases out of this discussion. I didn’t share my political views with the students during these discussions. I really wanted to be sure that they learned accurate and unbiased information regarding this big issue of American politics. The students asked many questions regarding the big differences between Democrats and Republicans. They were really trying to wrap their minds around big government vs little government. I could see the wheels turning inside the brilliant minds of my students. It was so awesome. They were very curious. We could have kept the discussion going all morning long. They wanted more information, which was exactly the outcome I was hoping for. I wanted them to be curious and desire to learn more about this huge topic. I then shared brief biographies on each of the major republican and democratic candidates running for president in the Primary Election. I used the NH PBS Website for information on the candidates. It provided super background information on each of them. At that point, my class participated in the NH PBS Mock Election. I reminded the students to think carefully about their party affiliation. Which ideals and thoughts do you most agree with? What matters to you? Do you want more governmental control or less? My students chose their political party and then cast their vote. They seemed so excited to participate in this wonderful Mock Election. As I explained the gravity of this momentous event, they were so engaged. “Our vote matters?” they wondered. During snack, the students spent the entire period discussing their thoughts on the two major political parties and for whom they voted. It was awesome to see them so interested and excited about American politics.
As pride and excitement filled my body and soul yesterday morning watching my students engage the process of American Democracy, I wondered how many other teachers are helping their students understand American politics and how the American government functions. My hope is that all teachers are helping inspire their students to find their passion in politics. I hope that all students leave school a bit curious for more information on this hot-button topic. I hope that teachers don’t avoid teaching this subject because it is often considered controversial. I hope that teachers are engaging their students in discussions on politics and government. I hope that students are looking around their world wondering how they can bring about change and make tomorrow better than today. I hope that future generations of Americans will see that as citizens of this wonderful country, we are in charge. We have the power to elect officials to represent us and our ideals. We have the power to foster change. I hope that schools around the country are helping students see that we all have the awesome responsibility to make America the most caring, accepting, diverse, and environmentally conscious country for all people and living organisms. I hope that students are attending schools in which they tackle big issues like politics head on so that future generations of citizens feel empowered and passionate about making our world a better place for all. All schools need to teach civics and talk about current events in our world so that our students will be able to grow into the most effective global citizens possible.