Growing a Great Generation

Today’s 70th Anniversary of D-Day got me thinking about these soldiers and what they accomplished. They’ve been called The Greatest Generation, as rightly they should. It’s hard to imagine the sacrifices they made and the grace in which they not only served, but then continued to serve the country upon return. That goes for those who served overseas or who contributed to the war effort here at home. However, this led me to wonder. What am I doing to help grow the next generation?

This past year I used the poem, “In Flander’s Field” to teach my students not only about poetry, but about Veteran’s Day as well. We then used the song “Some Gave All” by Billy Ray Cyrus and “More Than a Name on a Wall” by The Statler Brothers to again discuss veterans. Although this part of history was not part of my curriculum, I felt that my students needed to understand the sacrifices of those who came before them. They were hungry to learn and really connected with both the poem and the songs.

Still, what am I doing to help grow the next generation, let alone one like those who fought on the beaches of Normandy? I’ll begin by bringing history to life and teaching in a manner that will ignite interest and excitement, not boredom bread from countless worksheets and dry reports. I will help them see the connection between the present and the past. So, I must create lessons that spark a sense of curiosity, mystery, and purpose. Ones that draw them in. When we studied Veteran’s Day I found excellent resources on TPT (the poetry activity from Rundee’s Room is excellent) in addition to the songs previously mentioned. Next year I plan to include more simulations in my social studies lessons to again draw my students into the past, yet make them think about the future.

Another plan, one in which I will need my entire school’s help, is to foster a sense of community service. Many of our students do amazing things as community service. They clean up parks, volunteer in nursing homes, work at county fairs, volunteer at food banks, and the list goes on. However, I’d like to see my entire class participate in some sort of community service. It’s not always easy for them to find opportunities or even find transportation to those opportunities. Therefore, I’d like them to be involved in service to the school. My vision is for this to be a school wide event where each grade level would be responsible for a service to the school. Then, either weekly or monthly, the whole school would perform their service on the same day, thereby it being a true school wide event. Some thoughts would be grade levels picking up trash in our hallways, picking up litter around the school, maintaining our small garden, taking care of our recycling, maintaining our courtyard pond, or even creating lessons on building character and then teaching those lessons to the younger students. As the students grow each year, the level of responsibility in their community service would grow as well.

If we want our students to aspire to greatness, we must first teach them humility, responsibility, and a sense of service. These gestures do not need to be grand, they just need to be meaningful. So to all of you who made the greatest gesture of community service, I thank you on this 70th anniversary of your sacrifice on D-Day.