Impeachment, the Infographic, and the Messy Desk

January 15, 2020

“Did you hear about the impeachment?” 
“Is the President impeached?” 
“Does the Supreme Court try the President?” 
“Trump is not going to get impeached.” 
“Ms. Nakatsuka why is your desk so messy?”

We had already covered impeachment at the end of September. We had discussed the facts and procedures — impeachment is a charge, it not a conviction; the House 
impeaches, the Senate holds the trial; the Chief Justice presides over the trial, etc. 
We discussed past presidential impeachments. Presidents Johnson and Clinton were the only presidents to be impeached. No, President Nixon was not impeached. And we discussed President Trump’s pending impeachment. 

Though no student was actually bold enough to ask me why my desk was so messy, I could imagine them asking. I was so busy covering current events, our California History standards, connecting with my students, collaborating with teachers and coaches, applying for conferences, tweeting, and grading papers, that I admit that I didn’t have time to clean my desk!

Thanks to countless educators who share valuable resources on Twitter, I was able to thoughtfully teach the impeachment process to my students in a fun and engaging way. This was much different than the last time I taught the subject as a current event, when President Clinton was impeached 21 years earlier. Yes, it was still valuable to teach impeachment while it was unfolding, but resources were limited, and I spent hours researching, curating and adapting the content I gathered. 

As December brought us closer to the impeachment vote, I felt that I had clearly explained impeachment. I was a bit disappointed to discover that my students still did not quite seem to understand the process, as evidenced by their questions. Don’t get me wrong: as a history teacher, I was thrilled to hear students so interested in current events. I loved the fact that they were asking thoughtful questions, and I was excited to catch snippets of their conversations about impeachment during non-class time (Yes, I eavesdropped on the students who came during lunch to work on our door for the holiday door decorating contest). 

As a history teacher in this age of information where students are often confused and challenged by much misinformation, I feel an even greater responsibility to teach my students to learn to become critical thinkers, to evaluate credible resources, to be able to discern fact from misinformation, and to recognize and use valid evidence to support their claims. So even though we had moved onto the next unit, we took a moment to revisit impeachment. 

Thanks to iCivics' Impeachment & Conviction Infographic, which I fortuitously left next to my projector for the past 2 months after our original investigation (For once I was grateful I had not cleaned up my messy desk), I had the user-friendly, succinct, accurate, visually-appealing credible source to remind my students about the process. Once again, I projected the infographic on my document cam and walked through and reminded them about the process: “What does the Constitution say about impeachment? Which chamber impeaches? What happens in the Senate?” After reviewing the infographic, I deliberately left this wonderful resource next to my doc cam. 

On December 18, 2019, President Trump made history as only the 3rd president to be impeached. We watched Speaker Nancy Pelosi hold the historic vote in the House, we discussed the articles of impeachment, and we revisited the infographic to understand the next steps. We discussed the impending trial in the Senate, the required 2⁄3 votes for conviction and removal from office, and the fact that no president has ever been removed from office. 

As I type this reflection, Speaker Pelosi is preparing to deliver the articles of impeachment to the Senate, and the parties have been discussing the rules for the impending trial. I’m keeping my iCivics impeachment infographic handy, knowing we will need to revisit it again in the days ahead. 

I’m grateful for all my educator Twitter buddies who regularly and generously share their ideas, lessons and resources, and to iCivics for the Impeachment & Conviction Infographic as well for the wealth of engaging, ready-to-use, high-quality materials they provide to help us to educate our students as they develop and grow up to become engaged, informed and involved citizens who care to make a difference. It is an awesome time to teach in the history classroom! I’m so glad I didn’t clean up my messy desk! 

Written By Karalee Nakatsuka

Karalee is a member of the iCivics Educator Network and teaches eighth-grade U.S. history in Arcadia, California. Follow her on Twitter at @historyfrog.