How should a major news event affect your class?

Today is the Presidential inauguration. You have a class today.

Should you:

(A) Cancel class.
(B) Hold class but use most of the class time for the class to watch the inauguration.
(C) Teach class as you had planned but include the Obama Inauguration as part of your lesson.
(D) Go on with class as if the inauguration wasn’t happening.

Actually, that’s a trick question, as it can have (in my opinion) more than one answer.

(A) This option could be appropriate if your class is at the same time as the oath of office, and your students will want to watch the event. You don’t have a classroom with a television or you do have a classroom with a television but think the students would probably prefer to watch the inauguration with someone other than you and the other students. If you are teaching a media class, you may send the class out on assignment to watch the event, interview others who are watching, and then write a story.

(B) Watching as part of class can be appropriate, too, especially if you can include the viewing as part of a course objective. If you’re teaching a media class, you could talk about telling different parts of the story with different cameras — the crowd at a distance to show the magnitude, individuals in the crowd to show emotions and the diversity, the setting of the inauguration, President Obama tight shot, the speaker at the podium, the platform party, etc.

(C) That was my strategy for today’s classes, as one class was right shortly after the swearing in and one a little later in the afternoon. We needed to have class to get ready for this week’s lab writing assignment — writing their first news stories. So I decided to include President Obama as we talked about one of the topics of the day — the qualities of news. (See PowerPoint slide.) The students worked in pairs and threes to come up with a list of Obama-related stories that illustrated the news qualities. Stories they had read, heard or seen. I thought the activity went well, and I think they did, too — whether or not they may have voted for Obama.

(D) This is the only answer that I wouldn’t mark as correct. The inauguration of the president is such an important event that anyone teaching today should acknowledge the event in some way. That doesn’t mean wearing an Obama or McCain T-shirt. That demonstration of political affiliation can be a deterrant to learning, as students who have strong feelings about the elections which differ from yours can have difficulty seeing you and your teaching in a “neutral” context for the rest of the semester.

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