Today's post is from Amy Livingston, a middle school teacher here in Florida. She discusses a recent appearance by Mary Beth Tinker in her class, how it happened, and how it went. I can imagine just how exciting that must have been for the kids to virtually meet someone who is in the actual case they have to know! Thank you, Amy, for sharing!
This morning my Civics class hosted Mary Beth Tinker from the 1969 US Supreme Court Case Tinker v Des Moines. This case opened up many doors for students around the country and was really the first time the Supreme Court has formally come out and said students are people too and proclaimed that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the school house gate.” She was 13 years old when her case began.
How Did I Get Mary Beth Tinker?
Last year I was listening to a podcast and on it I heard something about a "Tinker Tour" where you could go on and request Ms. Tinker to come visit your school and talk to students about her case. I had actually forgotten about it until recently, when I was trying to figure out a way to engage students more in distance learning and it was then when I remembered about the Tinker Tour.
Knowing that due to Covid-19 and schools being closed that there would be no way she would be able to come visit I decided to just email on the fly. I introduced myself, let her know I am a Civics teacher in Florida and that my students and I were just embarking upon our Supreme Court cases unit and asked if she ever did video meetings with students since she couldn't physically tour. About four days later I received a response that she would love to meet with my students via Zoom and asked when I would like to hold our meeting!!
Zooming With My Students
I sent out messages on Remind and through Edsby as well as Google classroom to invite students and in total about 80 out of my 125 students came to our special Zoom meeting. Students asked about what it was like to be their age and go to court. They asked about what type of opposition she faced. Students were also curious about how this case has impacted Ms. Tinker through her life as well as how it continues to impact students today.
Ms. Tinker showed us her original arm band and some hate mail she received. And, fun fact, Ms. Tinker was still suspended even though she took off the arm band! My students were excited and engaged throughout our time with Ms. Tinker. They loved that someone their own age made such an impact on their lives today.
Reflecting on the Virtual Visit
Ms. Tinker is passionate about young people speaking up and using their First Amendment rights to create change. Our favorite quote from today was: “Kids do have a lot of important knowledge and that’s why society always benefits when young people speak up.”
What an incredible experience this was to hear first hand from someone who was the same age as our Civics students when she took her case to the highest court in our country and won!
You Can Do It!
Advice I would give other teachers who want to do this is to just do it! Reach out to Ms. Tinker though her website https://tinkertourusa.org/ or by emailing her at MarybethTinker@gmail.com and schedule something. She is such a warm and kind woman and I promise you, your students will love it!
Thanks so much, Amy, for sharing this experience! Students getting a chance to actually learn directly from someone who had such an impact on civic life is so huge!