From the Outside Looking in.
I have been to Washington DC before, I know how powerful it would have been for the students to stand where Dr. King gave his iconic “I have a dream” speech, I know how emotional it can be watching the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery, I even enjoy watching people try to do those dumb “fit the capital building in your hand” pictures. My students on the other hand, have never seen or can relate to those experience, not even now, after a trip to Washington DC.
In the midst of what ended up being a life changing week for the students involved in the International Emerging Leaders Conference was the weekend in Washington DC. This should have been a highlight of the trip, most of the students will not have the chance to be in America anytime soon, let alone the capital. Living in Morocco for the last two school years I have become displaced from the everyday news outlets of America. I still follow what I can but I do not have the background noise of having the news on as I get up and as I fall asleep. For a week I enjoyed a complimentary breakfast at my hotel, but did not enjoy the daily news. Each day the counter on the bottom right corner of the TV showed “Days to debt ceiling, Government shutdown day # ___”. Everyday as I tried to eat my cinnamon raisin bagel I had to explain to a different international colleague what was going on, and why it was happening now. As I described the topics that have become the catalyst in this shutdown I was neutral as possible, because it is not morally right to describe things from my 25 year old, science teacher living abroad angle. Only knowing my colleagues for a few days, I have the upmost respect for them, and it would have been wrong to give them only one side of the story, after all we are teachers.
As the week started I was optimistic that the museums would be opened by Saturday. The Collegiate School had set up tours and museum visits for a jam-packed weekend to end an amazing experience. With the government still shutdown the tours were cancelled, the museums were empty, and even Abe Lincoln was covered with a black cloth.
Signs were everywhere, gates ran across all of the national parks and monuments, but the day was jumpstarted by student insight. As my four students from Morocco stepped into the middle of the WW2 memorial a protest of 20 veterans was ending in the Atlantic side of the memorial. One of my students reluctantly asked if that was what a protest was in America, because it was not to impressive. Teacher mode kicked in, and I described how meaningful it is that WW2 veterans would make it down to the memorial just to talk for a few seconds. It may not have been 5,000 teenagers screaming for new rights, but it was just as powerful. The day continued to walk on the fine line of enjoying the capital and being annoyed at what was going on around us. Students began to take pictures around the signs, and truly have some once in a lifetime pictures. Luckily, high schoolers have a tendency to make the best out of any situation, and instead of doing the adult thing and complain the whole time, they really enjoyed themselves.
**Since I was going to write about it anyway, I put this in for a writing challenge that you can find here: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/writing-challenge-history/