Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans' Day

I can remember having the day off from school every year on Veterans' Day.  I can remember having it off as a teacher, too.  But for the past few years, my school district has been having school on Veterans' Day, and what a great idea that is!

This is supposed to be a day to honor the selfless service of those brave men and women who keep our country safe and free.  Some people object to having "business as usual" on Veterans' Day, saying that the day should be used to really honor the service of our vets.  I couldn't agree more, which is why I have come to believe with every fiber of my being that having a day off from school is the absolute WORST way to honor our veterans!

A day off from school is just that -- a day off.  The typical kid will sleep in and spend the day parked in front of the television or computer.  On TV, they will see some news promos for Veterans' Day activities being held or short ads thanking vets for their service.  Online, they might see posts on Facebook from friends saying, "Thanks for your service," and maybe the kids will even "Like" some of those posts.

What has been learned about veterans or Veterans' Day?  Not one blessed thing.

If we want our students to understand the sacrifices made by those who serve our country, then keep them in school so they can learn.  I was at one assembly in our district today where the 3rd and 4th grade kids invited veterans from their families to attend some presentations.  In the assembly, the local boy scouts and girl scouts did a color guard ceremony and demonstrated the proper way to fold a flag.  The junior high pep band played the national anthem while the 3rd graders sang it and signed it in ASL.  The PE teacher taught all the kids to do a patriotic cheer.  Some students wrote personal letters of thanks to members of their families who are veterans and read them at the assembly.  They 3rd graders also sang "America the Beautiful" then the 4th graders sang "God Bless the USA" and signed the chorus to the song.  They all were also treated to a presentation by a veteran who also shared some video of an fighter jet getting re-fueled mid-air.

To prepare for this assembly, the kids had to learn about the branches of the military, practice flag ceremonies and flag folding, talk to their family members to learn about their family history in terms of military service, learn and practice iconic patriotic American songs, and lear some sign language, too.  These 3rd and 4th graders have been learning about service to our country and how valuable it is for weeks now; today is just the manifestation of their appreciation for what they have learned.  If these kids had stayed home for a day off, what would they have learned about our nation's veterans?  They would have learned that this is just one more free day for play time.

Thanks to all our veterans, and I also say thanks to all the schools who work hard to teach our students what this day is all about.

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