Politics in the classroom; choosing whether or not to call the teacher.

Dear Mrs. James,

There was a semi-uproar surrounding the President Obama Speech to students. What was your opinion? Did your students watch the speech?

Sincerely,

Natasha Weaver
Dublin

Okay, Natasha, let's keep it real! "Semi-uproar" is sooo an understatement! People were going insane! They were threatening to protest, to WITHDRAW their students from their school, and to file lawsuits if the students were required to watch the speech. OMG. People were (as my students would say) "straight trippin!" I seriously thought I was on Candid Camera.

People were making a mountain out of a molehill. It was simply the President of the United States giving an inspirational speech to encourage our kids to stay in school. As an inner-city teacher, I was incredibly thankful that our President would take a moment to address my students. Statistics say that more than half of the students in my class will not graduate high school. If his speech inspired at least one of them to walk across that stage, then I am eternally grateful. Sure, he didn't say anything that I hadn't said a million times over, but its different coming from him. Our students respect him and view him as a role model. It was just different. If Michael Jordan were to give a speech to the basketball team, it would be totally different than the coach of the team giving the speech. It's just the way it is.

I can proudly report that my students were hanging on to his every word. According to their journals, they were inspired, motivated and grateful that the President of the United States cared enough about them to deliver a personal speech to them. I personally loved the speech. I thought it was wonderful, as many of his speeches are. I guess I can sum up my opinion with the Facebook update I posted shortly after the speech was over: "I love our President and I love even more that my students are hanging onto his every word. If you were against this speech, oh well. Your stupid loss."

Keep up the good work,

Love,
Mrs. James

Dear Mrs. James,

My son's class is reading a book about child prostitution and he's in the 7th grade. I just think there are some things that shouldn't be in schools. I don't want to have to explain sex and that sort of thing to my 7th grader when he's not even really thinking about it. I told him I was going to call that teacher and tell her I didn't agree, but he begged me not to. He doesn't want to be embarrassed. What do you think?

Sincerely,
Sidney Sullinger

OMG, Sidney, I hope your son isn't in my class. Seriously. My class is reading Patricia McCormick's book Sold which is about a girl whose stepfather sells her into child prostitution. Wouldn't that be the funniest thing ever if your son was in my class? Here are my thoughts ... unbiased of course!

The reason that he probably doesn't want you to call his teacher is because his classmates are probably in love with the book. Many of my students have told me that they never liked reading until they read this book. Others said that the book changed their life! Children these days are totally over Junie B. Jones and Superfudge. They like controversy and they like emotion. They like books that grab their attention. No lie, my principal came into my classroom during my lunch the other day and said, "What is this book you're reading? The kids keep telling me about this book and how awesome it is!"

My advice is simple. If you honestly feel that your son isn't ready to read this type of material then you should not allow him to read it. Mother does know best! Just don't take the opportunity away from other students in the class who may really be enjoying it. This book has captured the attention of students who have NEVER read a book in their little 7th grade lives, so it is a good thing! It's got kids reading, involved and talking about what they're learning in class!

Lastly, my class is working on a fundraiser to help stop child prostitution in India. It is not only an opportunity to learn about life outside of the U.S., but to empower them to make a difference. Even if your son isn't in my class, I think it's still a great experience. Just relax! It's really okay. E-mail me if you have more questions! Until then ...

Keep up the good work!

Love,
Mrs. James

P.S. 7th grade? Um, yeah. Time to talk to your son about the birds and the bees. Take it from me: a 7th grade teacher.