Note: today was the last day of the 3rd quarter. We were on a minimum day schedule, which meant classes were only 30 minutes in length.

What the teacher did: I briefly shared some news updates with students.

Students were shown where to go to find their congressional representative: I modeled the process by using the school’s address. Because they way congressional districts are drawn, not all of my students have the same representative.

What the students did: Students figured out how to contact their representatives.

What the teacher did: I asked the students to consider who might be best the audience for their letters. For example, if a student has a “pro-gun” stance, it would not make sense to send your letter to a “pro-gun” politician. Many of my students wrote “anti-gun” letters, but both congressional representatives in this area are both democrats, so sending their letters to them would not be a good idea.

For those students who did not want to write their own representatives, I showed them the following alternatives, which helped them to contact other key lawmakers:

What the students did: Students electronically submitted their letters to me. Some of them (see reflection below) also emailed them to lawmakers.

Some reflections on the lesson:

·      One of the criticisms I received via Twitter suggested that it was wrong for me to make it mandatory for all students to actually contact their lawmakers. After giving that some thought, I agreed with the criticism. Therefore, I made it optional. And I’m glad I did (see below).

·      After students submitted, their letters to me I asked: “How many of you decided to actually submit your letter to a lawmaker?” Surprisingly—at least to me—far fewer students than expected decided to actually send their letters. This perplexed me, as the students were engaged in the unit. (In fact, when I asked them how many are going to march in the April protest, a strong majority indicated that they were going to walk). So why would so many of them decide to march, yet at the same time decide to not mail their letters? When I asked, I was met with silence. And this is where I had an “Aha!” moment: my initial theory is that many of them may have undocumented family members and are thus reluctant to place their families on the radar screens of lawmakers. But I am not sure that is the only reason. Unfortunately, because it was a minimum day and the students were with me for only 30 minutes, I did not have time to delve deeper. The period ended. But I have decided that when they return to class, I will ask them to write me anonymously and tell me why they decided not to submit. I am really curious about this—why impoverished students are reluctant to have their voices heard. My gut feeling tells me—and I could be wrong— that students who come from more advantaged backgrounds would be much less hesitant to fire off their letters. What is it about poverty, about oppression, that silences people?  I intend to explore this in greater depth, but it will have to wait ten days. Spring Break begins tomorrow, and not a moment too soon. Whatever the answers turn out to be, I am hoping that they serve as a transition into our next unit—the reading of 1984.

AuthorKelly Gallagher