Friday, September 17, 2010

How I Became A School Teacher and How They Ended Up Teaching Me.

I read a lot of blogs.  And if I have learned anything from reading these blogs is should have been to never, ever promise an update the following day.  Because then you are guaranteeing that you will not post the next day.

Or maybe I'm projecting again.  I hate when I do that.

Alright.  So I go to Marc's classroom all ready to be "Mrs. Adams".  Which I don't mind at all and (tangent warning) really wish was more the norm outside the classroom with young children.  I live in the South and unless you are a school teacher or wrinkled with age, people don't refer to others as "Mrs." all that often.  Little kids call people Miss First Name or Mr. First Name and though many will roll their eyes and call me old, I prefer the more formal Mrs. Last Name.

Once, when Marc was quite small, Tom built a low tree fort in our back yard that proved irresistible to the older neighborhood children.  So there I was with an 18-month old and six of his 9-year old closest friends when one of them blurts out, "Whas yer name?"

"Mrs. Adams."

*blink*  *blink*

"But whas yer first name?"


So I felt no pangs of vanishing youth when I walked into a roomful of children excited to call me by the same name to which my mother-in-law answers.

Mrs. Isaac had everything prepared for me beautifully and so we started our day with a spelling test and then pretty quickly it was time to take them to music.  40 minutes of Facebook time!  Whew!  Teaching is tough!  I go to collect them and they are ramped up.  Time for reading and art which actually translates in a 9-year old's brain to "time for visiting my neighbor and being loud".  At 10:30 we switch the T.V. on for a promised 30 minute video that lasted 4 minutes.  FOUR!  What was even the point?!  It was a Schoolhouse Rock song about the Constitution and now it's time for Mrs. Adams to do some actual teaching!

"It's the year 2010 and aliens have landed and taken over the United States of America!  They will allow us to choose four of our rights as American citizens but only four.  All the rest will be lost.  Which rights will you choose to keep?"

We spent about 15 minutes discussing each right and as we went down our list, the kids started getting agitated.  I heard, "This is hard!" and "I don't want to lose any of them!"  I was so happy to be stimulating them so much!  Maybe I should have been a homeschooler!  I'm great at this!  They are so engaged and interested!

Then we break into small groups to choose our four rights and one child comes up to me with tears in his eyes.  Real bona fide tears people!  And he swallows hard, and asks with a trembling voice, "Are aliens really coming to take over us?"

Apparently I actually missed my calling.  I'm not sure what scaring the daylights out of a kid with my realistic portrayal of life taken over by aliens would suit me for but surely parents would "peacefully assemble" to protest the psyche scarring that I would be bound to inflict.

So, with assurances that this was all PRETEND they engaged in very heated discussion over which rights to keep.

In the end, not one person voted to keep the press  (who reads newspapers anyway?), they didn't mind excessive bail and no one stood up for speedy trials. All the others got at least one vote.

It was very fascinating to me the one right they were all absolutely sure needed to be kept.  Not everyone said freedom of speech.  Freedom of religion was important to some but not all.  Many wanted to retain the right to peacefully assemble.  But every one of those little 4th graders felt that there was one right that was so important that they all refused to give it up.

The right to bear arms.

This was so interesting to me because in the minds of these children, the right to own their own gun was so cut and dry, so black and white and they truly believed that if they simply held onto that one right, they could set the world straight again.  If those aliens started mistreating them (which they obviously already were, having taken so many of their rights away) then they could just shoot them dead and get all their rights back!  Some kids even made skits depicting how they would storm the gates of the enemy ship and win back their right to face their accuser in a fair trial or worship wherever or however they choose!

I have never given much thought to the right to bear arms other than knowing I did not want to get into the debate.  I understand the concept that "guns don't kill people, people kill people" but I also have considered it utterly ridiculous and immoral to sell guns that serve no purpose than to slay a human being.  I could see both sides of the issue and would not have considered taking sides.  It's amazing to me how a group of 9-year olds could help me see this issue in such stripped down, get right to the heart of the matter detail.

If aliens took over the United States, and we had our guns, we could keep our rights.  It's that simple.  Taking away guns from the citizens of a country leaves them vulnerable to lose everything.  Aliens are pretend, but bad guys who want to steal stuff are sadly, not.  Sometimes, they even end up in charge.

We don't own a gun and so there is not one in our house.  I had thought about getting one when my babies were little and my husband still traveled with the Army but now I never feel a need for one.  But one little 4th grade class has taught me how important it is for me to never, ever consider taking away your right to own a gun.

Which rights would YOU keep if you could only keep four?
First Amendment – Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause; freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly; right to petition
  • Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Second Amendment – Militia (United States), Sovereign state, Right to keep and bear arms.
  • A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Third Amendment – Protection from quartering of troops.
  • No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
  • The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Fifth Amendment – due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, eminent domain.
  • No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Sixth Amendment – Trial by jury and rights of the accused; Confrontation Clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel
  • In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Seventh Amendment – Civil trial by jury.
  • In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Eighth Amendment – Prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.
  • Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.
  • The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Tenth Amendment – Powers of States and people.
  • The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
 That day in a classroom, I got taught again how to be so thankful to be a citizen of this great country.


  1. Interesting - I did close to that same lesson with inner-city teens yesterday and none of them said that. Wouldn't be the one I picked either - there's this whole "Thou shalt not kill" thing that I get stuck on. I'd have to go for all 5 that are protected by the first amendment - those are the ones that keep me alive every day and also the ones that make democracy work, in my opinion.

  2. So glad you answered! I thought of you when I wrote this and suspected you would disagree. It is interesting that the inner-city kids, the ones that have probably a bit more experience with guns than these 4th graders did not choose it. I thought it was just a "boy thing" but all the girls felt strongly too.

    And the commandment is actually "Thou shalt not murder." If it were "Thou shalt not kill" then that would pose quite the problem for anyone who wanted to follow the commands and become a police officer, for instance.

  3. I think it is interesting how the commandment has started being interpreted that way in some circles, but I disagree. Killing isn't really a requirement for police work, either, except here - the land of guns and the 2nd amendment. In many countries, police officers are not armed with lethal weapons - non-lethal ones do the job.