Monday, January 26, 2015

Thank You For Your Service

The Te@chthought Blog Challenge for today:

Share a time when you learned a very important lesson from one (or more) of your students.

 Our district hosts a Veteran's Day assembly every year on November 11th, and plans for it to end at 11:11 am.  The annual winner of the Voice of Democracy essay is declared, and the essay is read, the marching band plays the national anthem,the chorus sings, including In Flanders' Field, and the front rows, just this once, are not reserved for the seniors, for it is the veterans of the community who fill more than a hundred seats -- many of them dressed in their original uniforms.  

Suffice it to say that this event always makes me cry.   Sure, it's predictable, but it's also emotional.  And, I'm sure, some of that emotion comes from the incredible sense of pride I have for this small town tradition, and the courtesy shown by the students.

Shortly after Halloween, the mini-posters appear.  You know it's serious, when the district prints an announcement on the color printers:  DRESS UP DAY!  November 11th.  (All who do get a free bag of baked chips).  I'm really not sure how significant the bribe of the small bag of baked Doritos is, but the annual distribution is usually somewhere close to 80% of the student body.

I stand in awe of the climate of respect that is developed every year by our principal.  Somehow, the freshmen inherently know  that he means business, and that this is something special.  At the conclusion of the assembly, after having heard a speaker -- sometimes an alumni who has been involved in military service -- two trumpet players play Taps, signalling the end of the experience.  The sounds echo each other, hidden in opposite corners of the auditorium.  The students are dismissed, to leave the auditorium in silence, as a sign of respect.

I was standing in one of the back rows, when a freshman approached me, asking if he could stand with me.  I  must admit, I was suspicious.  At first, I shushed him, as he had violated the silent exit.  The entire student body exited, and the veterans started making their way to the back of the auditorium.  The kid stood, silently, hands clasped in front of his body.   

I was confused.

I whispered to him, inquiring as to what class he was missing.  Surely this was the reason for his unusual behavior.


Just as he whispered the word to me, the first veteran reached his outstretched hand.

"Thank you for your service," he said, looking the elderly serviceman in the eye.

I stood with this young man, tears welling up in my eyes, as he shook the hand of every single veteran who passed by him at the end of the assembly, repeating his thanks to each and every one.

It's the job of every teacher to keep an eye out for kids trying to pull one over.  I am embarrassed to admit that I was suspicious of the intentions of this young man.  Instead, I learned that I will never again wear non-waterproof mascara on November 11th, for I will always remember the sincerity and kindness of Preston - the kid who valued military service over his own lunchtime.

I told the story to the principal, and then I called the young man's mom, leaving a message recounting the story.  Society is in good hands, with this next generation, no matter what some may think.

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