In the sixth-grade classes at Mt. Woodson Elementary School, President Obama’s speech on Tuesday about taking responsibility and setting educational goals was quietly viewed by students who went right back to schoolwork after the speech ended.
The two sixth-grade classrooms, a combined fifth/sixth grade class, and one of the two fifth-grade classrooms watched the speech. Theresa Grace, principal at Mt. Woodson, said some of the lower classes may view the speech on Thursday if the teachers think it fits in with the goal setting component of the school district’s “Too Good for Drugs” program. Some of the teachers, she said, wanted to view the speech first.
The few students whose parents had them opt out of watching the speech sat in the library or, if a fifthgrader, they were allowed to sit in the other fifth grade classroom.
Grace said she had “more calls than anticipated” about the speech.
“Parents are our partners. We want to respect their wishes,” and yet, she added, they wanted the opportunity to show the speech.
“It’s a delicate balance,” she noted.
The students watched the speech on drop-down screens in front of the classroom. However, because the teachers were accessing it through the Internet, there were some problems maintaining the Internet connection at the start of the broadcast. Grace said sometimes when all the classrooms are watching something on the Internet, it crashes.
In Robin Arend’s sixth-grade classroom, students worked on their planners right until the start of the speech.
“No time is wasted in the sixth grade,” Grace said.
Arend had some difficulties maintaining the Internet connection at the start of the speech. When that was finally resolved, the president was seen on a smaller box on the screen. Some students watched and some continued to work on their planners.
Sixth-grade teacher Leslie Wilson was able to show the president on a full screen where students watched in a darkened room.
The speech lasted about 15 minutes and was broadcast from a high school in Arlington, Va. It was shown to students across the country in grades pre-K through 12th.
In his speech, Obama talked a little about his educational and family background, admitting there were struggles. He mentioned three students—one from Texas, one from California, and one from Chicago—who faced hardships but were able to succeed.
“Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up,” he said. “No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.”
Obama also talked about goals. According to Grace, the school district’s program “Too good for Drugs” is about goal setting and making choices.
“We do a lot of goal setting,” she said. “We’re tying it (the speech) to goal setting.”
Obama said, “I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education—and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book.”
Later, he said, “Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.”
When asked if the classrooms were going to do any of the classroom activities, as suggested by the U.S. Department of Education, and that caused so much of the controversy swirling around the speech, Grace said, “We have so much curriculum content to cover. Goal setting is the most productive use for us.”
After the speech, the students in Wilson’s class were told to set a school goal and a personal goal.
“What do you want to achieve this year in the sixth grade, personally and academically?” Wilson asked the students as they pulled out their notebooks and went to work.
As of press time, Ramona Unified School District Superintendent Robert Graeff did not know how many classrooms in the district showed the speech to students. A meeting with school principals was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 8.