Presidential Ponderings on the Events of 6 January 2021


Like so many of you, we have watched with shock and horror the recent acts of terror in Washington, D.C. centered on the afternoon of January 6th.

As I (Mike) watched coverage and reporting on the events over the past week and pondered what a message might be to our AMTE family in the face of such shocking challenges to our democracy, two stories came to the fore.  The first was Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s description of her actions and the actions of her staff on the day of the siege; the second was the installation of metal detectors at the entrance to the House chambers.  As the Speaker was shuttled to safety, the remaining staff in her office suite locked themselves in a conference room, hid under the table, and turned out the lights.  They said they had learned these procedures from active shooter drills they had experienced in school.

And last night as the House of Representatives reconvened, metal detectors were present for the first time at the entrance to the House chambers.  This sight is of course quite familiar and routine for those of us who work in schools, and I (Mike) have greeted security staff, emptied pockets, and passed through the magnetometers countless times as I entered a school building over the years.  Yet I watched in disbelief as a vocal group of Congresspeople bypassed the detectors, berated security guards, or otherwise refused to comply with a request that we ask of so many of our students each day.

I (Megan) am encouraged by the heroes and helpers. I am thankful for Eugene Goodman, the officer who selflessly protected others; the staff who utilized what they learned in active shooter drills to protect others; the teachers who created holistic spaces for students to reflect and process the events; and the teacher educators who supported teacher candidates and inservice teachers in planning for the space for processing for their learners. As a young teacher in 1999, I remember when the elementary school where I taught began conducting active shooter drills. I struggled with how to react and support my second graders as they tried to process the drill and what it reflected about our world and meant for our classroom community. This week teachers at various levels of experience met this challenge. As a mathematics teacher educator, I hope to help my students see the importance of the content they are teaching in the world around them, but also their role as the facilitator of a community of learners who have needs beyond the content. As an organization, I hope AMTE continues to support this important work of teachers and advocate for learners. We also need to provide spaces for mathematics teacher educators to process and support each other in our work and our world.

These stories reminded us quite starkly that as mathematics teacher educators, social injustice and upholding democratic ideals are always at the center of our work.  We continue to bear a responsibility to be active participants in supporting systemic change and empowering the teachers, schools, and districts with whom we work to provide students with opportunities to use mathematics and mathematical practices to critically examine and communicate about their world. We stand with our sibling organizations such as NCTM, AERA, AACTE, and others in their condemnation and outrage at the events related to the violent storming of the US Capitol, and we are reminded of our duty to support teachers and students in making sense of these events and supporting meaningful change.  For Speaker Pelosi’s staff, their experiences in our nation’s classrooms may have literally saved their lives last week.

Mike Steele, AMTE President

Megan Burton, AMTE President-Elect