"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Desks

This is a lesson that should be taught in all schools and colleges.  Oh, and it's true.

Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a Social Studies teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, did something not to be forgotten.

On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal, and the building supervisor, Ms. Cothren removed all of the desks from her classroom.  When the first period students entered the room they discovered there were no desks.

"Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?"  The students asked, puzzled. 

She replied, "You can't have a desk, not until you are able to tell me how you earned the right to sit at a desk."

They thought and whispered among themselves.  One student held up her hand and then asked, "Well, maybe it's our grades.  Do we have to get an A to get a desk?" 

"No."  Ms. Cothren answered.

"Then maybe it's our behavior." Said one boy in class who was, more often than not, in trouble.  

The teacher shook her head.  "No, it's not even your behavior."   

It went on like this the whole day long.  Students came in, heard Ms. Cothren's query and, with no answers, at the end of the period, the students left.  They arrived for the first period, second period, then the third period. Still there were no desks in the classroom, nor the proper answer to Ms. Cothren's puzzling riddle.

By early afternoon, television news crews had started gathering in Ms.Cothren's classroom to watch and then report what they could about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren said, "Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you."

At this point, you could've heard a pin drop in the classroom.  Martha Cothren walked over to the door of her classroom and opened it wide. Twenty-seven U.S. Veterans, all in uniform, walked into the classroom, each carrying a school desk.  One by one, each Veteran replaced a school desk, row by row, and then walked over to take his place beside the other Vets along the wall. 

By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place, the students finally understood, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Ms Cothren stood silently looking into each student's face and then she spoke, "Understand, you didn't earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it's up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, and to be good citizens. They paid a dear price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don't ever forget that the freedoms we have in this great country were earned for us by U.S. Veterans."

Thank you, Veterans.  Welcome Home.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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