Saturday, July 1, 2017

Truth, Love, and Honor

"Truth, love, and honor, making our lives complete.."

The Donegal High School Alma Mater echoed, loudly, from inside the yellow school bus as it passed the Milanof Schock Library, less than a mile from the high school.  This busload of girls represented half of the group of 44 students and six adults who had spent the last 14 days chasing the history of World War II through five countries, and was following the "Boys' Bus" to our final destination as a group, where their parents were anxiously awaiting their return.

The fact that these girls -- whose bodies thought it was one in the morning, and had been up since six am, packing and dragging luggage and souvenirs through customs in two international airports -- had the desire, energy, and fortitude to salute the unity of this group as students of Donegal High School serves as a testimony to the entire European tour.  

And made me shed a tear both for having had the privilege to have been part of the adventure, and wishing that I could somehow capture the magic of the last two weeks for all students seeking knowledge.

Our tour guide for all but the last three days, Lisa Richardson, posted on Facebook, reaffirming what I was thinking:

This group was incredible! Never would I have thought that taking a group of American teenagers around Europe would be fun (I always assumed it would be the opposite)! I witnessed with this group something I have never seen before. The child like wonder and un prompted emotion in which these young adults viewed Europe was incomparable to anything else. Parents if you can read this - be very proud! They were the most well mannered and polite group of individuals anyone could of asked for! Dave Dunsavage, Susan Heydt, Gretchen Michelle, Heidi Witmer, Chris and Justin - what can I say! I have left with 6 new amazing friends. Thank you for all you have taught me and making me feel so welcomed in your group. Your love for these kids is an inspiration and I feel so honored to of been part of this adventure that you took them on. I know for sure we will cross paths again - a trip to Amish country has never sounded more fun!

This morning, I awoke after only five hours of sleep, with more blog inspiration from the last two weeks than I've had all year.  (Maybe my body has adjusted to surviving on five hours, or less, of sleep these past two weeks.)  It's easy to be inspired by the enthusiasm and wonder of students facing realities of the world on the very soil on which history has happened.  We've stood, as a group, on the beach at Normandy and in the Alps at the Eagle's Nest in Austria,  we've hugged each other, standing in the center of Dachau, and looked closely at the often-overlooked tributes to the Holocaust on the streets of Berlin. There are 27,000 such stones in the city, in front of the homes once occupied by victims of the Holocaust.

My head is still processing, yet my heart knows that allowing and encouraging students of today to face the possibilities of tomorrow is best taught by looking backwards, to the realities of history.  The Facing History School in New York does just that, encouraging and inspiring students to question, connecting ideas through interdisciplinary exploration.  My world this morning is once again suggesting that perspective changes every lesson, and every experience.  Viewing the Alps with Chris Talbert, who majored in Geology in college, was vastly different than with literature-loving English teacher, Heidi, who was envisioning a personal experience twirling on a mountaintop.  

So on this holiday weekend, I celebrate the goodness that is this country, the privilege of knowing these students, and the incredible relationships enhanced by these two weeks of discovery, as I upload photos and sort through ephemera stuffed in my suitcase during the trip.

And smiling, remembering the sounds of a group of kids who stepped out for two weeks, in truth, love and honor -- making my life complete.