What was it like in DC-area virtual classrooms the day after the U.S. Capitol riot?
The newspaper covering the happenings at Wilson High offers a window on the experiences of students, staff and faculty at the District’s largest school. Recent articles by The Beacon staff cover the return to in-person instruction, the waiving of community service requirements for the Class of 2021, and Mayor Bowser’s impending announcement of a new name for Wilson High School.
And on January 26th, The Beacon published this article on how teachers made space for class discussions on what everyone had seen and heard on January 6th. We’ve been given permission to share it with you here:
Teachers foster discussions to process Capitol insurgency
by Hadley Carr
of The Wilson Beacon
At 12:15 PM on Wednesday, January 6, President Trump called for a march on the Capitol. At 12:49 PM, bomb threats were reported on the National Mall. At 2:11 PM, rioters broke in on the West side of the Capitol. At 9:35 AM the next morning, Wilson students entered their first periods online.
A teacher’s job is to nurture and educate. After the events on January 6 unfolded, leading to the ultimate insurrection of the Capitol, teachers across academic departments held discussions to give students a place to process, despite the virtual environment.
History Teacher Robert Geremia began the first 10 minutes of his class by letting students write their reactions, thoughts, questions, and any connections to moments in history that they had studied in AP U.S. History or AP Comparative Government. For Senior Sam Marks, themes of “government legitimacy, regime, stability, and the process of democratization,” gave him perspective to the insurrection at the Capitol.
As a history teacher, the last five years have “been exhausting. It’s come to questions about constitutionality, fragility, and strength of democracy,” said Geremia.
However, Geremia believes his job as a social studies teacher is to teach his students to be “contributing citizens to democracy.” He adds that the events of January 6 were “a threat to democracy. The people have the power to make the change and become agents of change.”
Class discussions were not confined to the concepts of the curriculum. Teachers such as Physical Education Instructor Tim Brown held the discussions to allow his students “to reflect and voice their opinions.” Brown added that he values “the social and emotional learning of all [his] students and feels[s] it’s important to give them the opportunity to connect with each other during this very challenging school year.”
Science Teacher Daniela Muñoz felt that because of her own experience and her own view, she “didn’t think that [she] could afford not to address it in [her] class.” Muñoz was born under a dictatorship in Chile. Chile was in the process of reconstruction of democracy when Muñoz moved to the United States as a teenager.
In her 20 years of living in the United States, the police brutality and repression of peaceful demonstrations “has always felt incredibly similar to the repression that was seen during the dictatorship and the years following it.” Muñoz tried to voice the same message in all her classes: “Democracy is work. It’s not something you can take for granted, it’s something that you actively have to pursue and engage in.”
Overall, teachers saw not only abundant participation from students, but also an overwhelming sense of confusion. When Muñoz posed the question checking in with her students at the beginning of class, “the vast majority was a combination of confused, sad, angry, and all of these really deep emotions.”
She added that simply because high schoolers have “young minds doesn’t mean that [they’re] not experiencing the same life we’re all experiencing right now.” To this sentiment, sophomore Erin Kamm echoes that students “are growing up with all these major events happening, and we don’t know how to process it ourselves.”
For senior Traci Holmer, when she “first heard the Capitol Building had been stormed, [she] simply [could not] believe her ears.” After the Capitol riots, Holmer was “shocked and devastated by what happened, so even listening to the reactions of the students and teachers was comforting.”
Principal Kimberly Martin addressed the events of January 6 in a school-wide email, including how she feels “tired and overwhelmed.” Though she includes her feelings of unhappiness, she ends with an encouraging note to the Wilson community: “Please do not give up… Let’s all take the time we need to rest, regroup, and mourn, but let’s get back to work soon.”
Martin thanks Wilson teachers, “who while dealing with their own emotional and personal turmoil, created safe spaces for students to learn, express, and grow. Teachers showed remarkable resolve and vulnerability today.”