Published Sunday, February 17, 2013
By REBECCA LEFTWICH
Forty eighth grade students at Smokey Road Middle School followed up on a study of the United States Constitution with a first-hand view of government during a live Skype session with U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss recently.
Chambliss congratulated Principal Laurie Barron, who is the current MetLife/NASSP National Middle-Level Principal of the Year, and spent time thanking Georgia History teachers Darby Jones, Jim Mills and Pat Patterson. He called the teachers "the true heroes of our schools" before launching into a description of the role in the United States Senate and inviting students to ask questions.
"It was so great for the kids be able to talk to someone who helps enforce and uphold the Constitution every day," Barron said.
Smokey Road's eighth-graders asked questions on topics ranging from the fiscal cliff and gas prices to the Bill of Rights and what it takes to work in politics, even touching on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Students chose their own questions, ranging from serious to light-hearted.
Barron said students also enjoyed seeing, via Skype, a view of the nation’s capitol from Chambliss’s Washington, D.C. office.
"They had a first-hand discussion with him," Barron said. "It was a neat experience for me, but to sit and watch those kids engage with him and get the idea that he represents them because people voted for him.
"He told him how much they mattered," she added. "He showed them the power of one person's voice and how important it is to be involved."
Barron said she and the group of teachers told their students to be respectful and thoughtful.
"We talked to them but we never said they needed to dress up, just to present themselves well," she said. "They all came in nicely dressed, and we were just so proud of how they took it seriously."
And if the participants had touch of nerves, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, according to Barron.
"I thought it was neat they understood the opportunity and occasion, and they respected it enough to be nervous," Barron said. "They represented the school so well in their demeanor, their engagement and the thoughtful questions they asked. It was not just an opportunity to learn more, but to learn how to speak to adults."
Also on campus at Smokey Road during the Skype chat were Senator Chambliss’s regional representative, Seth Coker, and state director Camila Knowles.
"America is the greatest country in the world," Chambliss told the students, encouraging them to “get engaged, become active in your community, and read, read, read.”
All told, Chambliss spent about an hour interacting with students via Skype.
"That's technology at its best," Barron said. "It was a vitual experience at no cost – no transportation – and he made himself accessible so they could see he's up there representing them."