Monday, October 26, 2009

President Obama's Speech to America's Students... one month later

I'm sure you remember the controversy over President Obama's speech, which was broadcast nationwide, to America's primary and secondary school students. That day I did not have a class at the time the President was delivering his speech. But I had several students in my class that met soon after who seemed to think there wasn't anything political about his words at all. One student called it "an academic pep talk."

If you care to watch the 19 minute speech, here is the video.

You can go to for a transcript of the speech as well.

Now it has been one month... did his speech make a difference?
Are our students working harder because they have a better understanding of long term goals, a point President Obama tried to amplify?
Are our students seizing the opportunity to learn from their errors, or are they still arguing with their teachers to get a couple more points added to a test grade?
Are our students persevering because they feel a patriotic responsibility to do well in school?

I think I can predict the answers to those questions, and they aren't the answers I would have hoped for a month ago. Put aside the political debate over whether it was proper for our President to address our children directly. Even staunch Republicans who disagree with most of President Obama's decisions can't disagree with this quote:

"The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best."

My questions to you are these:
How do we make this message more lasting?
How do we get our students to understand the connection between trying hard in school and making a lasting contribution to our global society?
How do we inspire this generation to put in the time it takes to acquire the knowledge and skills we know they need when they have grown accustomed to "Googling" every little problem they encounter?

I have a few ideas, but I'm only one teacher in one classroom. What are your ideas?