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Obama’s speech heard in some UCPS classes

Students in Barbara Williamson ninth-grade English class at Porter Ridge High School were some of the UCPS students who viewed President Barack Obama’s nationally televised back-to-school message on September 8, 2009.

Some teachers in Union County Public Schools took advantage of President Barack Obama’s nationally televised back-to-school message to students, incorporating it into their day’s lesson plan.
Obama spoke for about 26 minutes to students at Wakefield High School Tuesday (Sept. 8, 2009) in Arlington, Virginia, welcoming them back to school and urging them to work hard and stay in school. He shared his own struggles of being raised by a single mom and told students not only did they owe it to themselves to get a good education and make something of themselves, but they owed it to America to become contributing citizens.
“What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country,” Obama said. “What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.”
Porter Ridge High School principal Sam Basden said the decision to watch the Obama speech was left to each teacher – a classroom-level decision.
“We didn’t force teachers to use it, but we didn’t deny them the opportunity to use it, either,” Basden said. “Instruction is at its best when it’s left in the hands of the teachers rather than a top down-type model. That’s the model we follow here. I have faith that our teachers handled it in such a way that is worthwhile for our students.”
Barbara Williamson, an English teacher at Porter Ridge, read the speech prior to it being aired, which helped her in the decision to make it part of her day’s lesson. She said she felt Obama’s speech was particularly appropriate for her students as the ninth grade sets the stage for a student’s high school career.
“Statistically, students who are successful in the ninth grade will be successful throughout their high school careers so it’s really important to me for my students to get a good start,” Williamson said. “And I think the President’s speech reiterated that.”
Williamson said the speech also emphasized the student’s responsibility to himself or herself. “He said they could have excellent schools, wonderful equipment, the best computers, teachers who are well trained and gifted, but the bottom line is the responsibility of a good education is on the student. He said, ‘You can’t drop out and expect to drop into a good job’.”
Three ninth graders in Williamson’s class shared their views on Obama’s speech. Arom Lopez, 15, said he thought it interesting that Obama had challenges as a youth, yet overcame those to become president of the United States. “It inspired me to pay attention in school, do my homework and get involved in extra curricular activities, to work toward having a good job and a good career,” he said.
Cassidy Crump, 14, said she felt his message was inspirational. “He said you have to fail to succeed, because if you don’t know what you did wrong, you’ll never know how to fix it,” she said.
Matt Wogan, 14, enjoyed Obama’s analogies about sports figures who didn’t succeed at first, but continued until they did. “He talked about Michael Jordan, for example, who didn’t make his high school team at first, but then he went on to become one of the best professional basketball players of all time,” Wogan said, adding that the speech inspired him to be his best not only for himself, but for his school and his country.
Basden said he felt Obama may have broadened students’ perspectives on how their future affected the nation. “He made sure that students knew if they quit, they were not only quitting on themselves and their families, but ultimately they were quitting on their country,” he said. “I know our students identify with being Americans, but they may not have seen that by failing, by dropping out, they’re failing America as well.”
As for students who were unable to watch the speech in class, Basden noted that any student who missed the speech during school would be able to view it on line.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Sep 11, 2009 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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