Tag Archives: military

Refreshing Lemonade

Today was presentation day!   The assignment was for students to create a visual and a speech that could be chosen to be presented at our school’s Veteran’s Day Choir Concert.  Despite computer problems throughout the creation process, the first round has been awesome. One student chose to honor our veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan after reading Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers:

As is always the case on the due date of an essay or project, several students swarmed me as if I was wearing dog biscuit clothes, and they were a pack of puppies.  One had to meet his mom at the office because he forgot his flash drive at home and she was bringing it in.  One had trouble emailing it to herself.  One girl’s computer crashed last night leaving her unable to complete the project, and one young man had Internet trouble.  Whatever happened to, “My dog ate my homework, or my brother lit it on fire in the garage?”

After 23 years of teaching, I am prepared for the onslaught of questions and excuses.  Furthermore, I truly understand the computer problems since I have encountered all of them myself.  I assuaged the fear of losing points and assured them that we would get through this together.  True, one or two kids may have been lazy or procrastinated too long, and this behavior will catch up to them eventually.  After all, I do have to move on with our next assignment on Monday.

Whenever one of the kids encountered a problem, several kids offered good solutions.   These kids were earning participation points because they were being problem solvers.  I saw teamwork like the kind our soldiers demonstrate.  The students were watching, listening, helping, and learning.  I believe a few kids are spending tonight redoing their projects because they want them to be better.  Competition can be good.  This is good for business.  The best products or services get the business.

Nonetheless, school is not a business.  This assignment is not completely about the final project.  Yes, the best presentation becomes part of the choir concert.  However, all of the kids enjoy the opportunity to learn, to be creative, and to assist classmates.  This is what makes a school a little different from a business. The school’s product is learning.


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Filed under Business, Education, Lessons from students, Measuring Student Success


Since this year is the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country, our schools’ choir director is planning a tribute to the heroes.  She has asked me to help her.

Researching ideas and information for the program has brought back memories of that September day.  I remember the looks on the kids faces as we tried to fathom what was happening.  I remember flying my flag when I got home.  And, I remember pausing while mowing my yard, looking up at the blue sky, and noticing no planes or jet trails streaking across the clear sky.

All of these memories have reminded me of the students I have taught who have decided to serve our country by joining the military.  I have had the honor and privilege to teach young people who joined the Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Air Force, and Marines.  Several went to our three Military Academies, many joined to help pay for college, and a few joined to help them “grow up.”  In my research I did not come across any of their stories, but I did find other veterans’ stories.  I am not sure if we can use them for the choir concert, but I do know we can learn from the experiences of our military personnel.  You can find their stories at http://www.loc.gov/vets/stories/ex-war-waronterror.html.


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Filed under Lesson Plans, Lessons from students

Wings of Freedom

Yesterday I took four skeptical, dubious boys, my three and Matthew’s friend, to see a B-24 Liberator, B-17 Flying Fortress and a P-51 Mustang.  The Wings of Freedom tour was in Columbus, and since my boys, like most boys, turn any stick into a sword, light saber, or gun, I thought they would enjoy seeing World War II bombers and a fighter.

When I showed them the ad from the newspaper and spoke about the role of the planes during the war, you would have thought I was telling them I was taking them to a doll museum or a Barney concert.  I heard whines of “Yuck!” “Boring!” and “Why?”  I hadn’t seen that much whine since my wife and I went to Napa.  Nonetheless, the boys anguished cries of torment did not prevail.  We loaded into the mini-van and drove across town.  Once our “rental kid” picked out a movie to watch on the TV in the van, the complaining subsided.  (What did our parents do without TVs?)

As we pulled into the small airport and I turned off the TV, we got a glimpse of the beautiful 60-year-old flying machines painted as they would have appeared during World War II.  The boys expressed some interest and excitement, similar to the way schoolchildren are right before the bell rings for dismissal.  We went to the gate and were even given a discount.  (I think the gentleman saw me with four boys and felt sorry for me, or did he feel sorry for them?)

The first thing we saw was an ammo case with 50 caliber rounds.  The only guns we own are NERF guns, and there is a difference between NERF darts and real bullets, especially really big bullets.  As we walked toward the B-17, the boys noticed a ladder going into the front of it.  “Can we go in?”  they asked in unison.

“Of course,” I replied with a sly grin.  I knew the boys would find this cool once they saw it.  As my wife likes to say, “Boys can be so predictable.”  I think she is referring to the kids and not me…

We explored every part of those bombers.  The kids had no problem crawling through the plane, balancing on the catwalk over the open bomb-bay doors, and pretending to fire the enormous 50 caliber machine guns.  As I hit my head and then ducked, I bumped into some older gentlemen.  They told us it was easier to get through the plane 60 years ago.  I was in awe.  We were on a bomber with the veterans who flew them.  As we climbed out of the two foot by two foot exit hatch, my oldest son and I stopped to listen to their conversation while the younger boys wanted to go through the plane again and again and again.  The stories we heard all covered funny things that happened on base or in the air.  As my dad, a Korean War Veteran, does, all of the stories avoid the harsh reality of war.  There are movies and books for that, I guess.  I was glad that my son could hear a history lesson from the ones who were there.

The stories held his attention for a few minutes, but like most children, Andy did not want to hear a lecture.  He wanted to learn by doing; learn by exploring.  So, off he went to explore the bombers more.

What did the Wings of Freedom Tour teach me?  The teacher must try to “hook” the student and not give in to protests because kids like to complain.  Hands-on-activities and exploration are more interesting than lectures.  Well, it is time to use our hands to clean the basement and explore what hides under the couch down there…


Filed under Humor, Lesson Plans


While I am teaching, I try to picture where my former students will be, and I am often surprised.  For example, I often can tell which students want to serve in our country’s military.  Sometimes I am surprised with the jobs they have, however.  For example, there is Kenny.  He can sing like an American Idol winner, stands about 5’8″ and weighs about 125 pounds.  He rode in a tank loading shells that nearly weighed as much as he did.

Sometimes I can assume what job they will have.  Aaron, for example, is a swimmer I coached.  It makes perfect sense that he became a rescue swimmer in the Navy.  Today, he loves to jump or repel out of perfectly good helicopters, swim through all kinds of water and waves or  hit the ground while under possible enemy fire to rescue people.  Needless to say, his Mom was not thrilled to discuss his will as he left for his tour of duty.

Understand, swimming can be an individual sport as well as a team sport.  Some swimmers only see their own goals and glory.  Not Aaron.  Yes, he had goals, but he wanted his teammates to reach their goals, too.  He led by example and pushed his teammates to work harder each practice.  He cheered loudly, applauded victories, and consoled losses.  Now his goal is to put himself in harms way to save someone whose goal is to make it home safely.

Aaron teaches us two important lessons.  First, we have to care about others to be successful.  Teachers and employers must care about students and employees.

Secondly, We have to be willing to sacrifice comfort to be successful. We have to leave our comfort zone and jump out of the helicopter. When we take risks, we either fail and learn from the experience or we succeed and learn from the experience. Either way, we learn and grow as a leader.

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Filed under Lessons from students