Faculty Opinion: Reflecting on walkout

The following is written by science teacher Mr. Robert Seiple, who reflects on the school walkout that occurred on March 14.

The 2017-18 school year will be a memorable one for me as a teacher. Perhaps two days stand out above the rest: the solar eclipse in the fall and yesterday’s student walkout. What unites these two days is that both required us to leave the classroom, take a risk, and seize a teachable moment. Now I firmly believe what takes place in the classroom is vital to the educational process. But I reject the logic of some who claim that students need to be in a classroom in order to learn, for much of life takes place beyond the classroom, or a school for that matter.  

I took part in the walkout yesterday on the soccer field. I had some misgivings when I first learned about its inception. What would be the purpose? Who would run it? How would it be received in light of our political times? Would everyone be kept safe? The safest choice would be for the district to deny the experience. After all, it is risky. Many schools in Cincinnati and across the U.S. did just that – deny the opportunity with the threat of disciplinary action for participants. The day had parallels to the fall.

Letting students walk out and observe a solar eclipse is risky. But perhaps if we adults trust students to act in a proper, safe manner, we may find the fear unfounded, and together we gain a lasting memory. Similarly, many adults in the community fear what students will hear and see if they participate in a rally outside the classroom surrounding a grim topic: violence in our schools.  As an adult, I can testify to the value of the walkout for all the participants at Sycamore High School despite my initial misgivings. In sharing the experience with my family, my 27-year-old son commented, “I think the kids who participated should be really proud of themselves for standing up to adults and demanding action. That is, after all, what we are asking young people to do through education: be mature and participate in the world. This is what a powerful and mature democracy and nation looks like: peaceful political action demonstrated by our kids who believe in themselves. That’s pretty amazing!

I believe we set forth a powerful model of social discourse and respectful protest that will serve as a model going forward for our students, staff, and community. Did the walkout at Sycamore on Wednesday change the world? I would submit yes if the metric is changing the mindset of young adults as to what is possible.