The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Veterans’ Day

For a multitude of reasons beyond my immediate control, students in the Urbana School District had class today. In the past, Veterans’ Day has been one of the federal holidays observed by the district with a day of no attendance. Many parents and teachers were concerned about what would happen with having class on this day.

I can only speak from my very limited experience as just one teacher in just one room in just one of the six elementary schools in the district, but I felt like it was a wonderful day!

We started the morning off by discussing what Veterans’ Day is, why we observe it, and the understanding that it is not a holiday like the Fourth of July with celebrations and parties and barbecues but more of a day of quiet observation and reflection as we think about the freedoms we enjoy in this nation and find ways to thank the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard) to protect not just our nation but also our allies and friends in other countries. I wanted my students to understand that we are all connected to these veterans in different ways. I told them about one of my older brothers, Anton, who served as an officer in the United States Air Force in Iraq. Several students shared stories about their family members and wars they have fought in, including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We learned that we have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in the military.

Later in the morning I had the students learn more about Veterans’ Day by researching the holiday with their Chromebooks. They explored questions such as

  • “What is Veterans’ Day?”
  • “Why do we observe it?”
  • What memorials to soldiers can be found in our community?
  • “How is it observed in other countries?”

At 11:11 am, the entire school paused for a minute of silent reflection as a guest played Taps over the PA system. This was in honour of the armistice agreement that marked the end of hostilities on the Western Front during the first World War on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Our entire school had a very special Veterans’ Day assembly in the afternoon. I had the privilege of leading a flag ceremony with a colour guard of students in 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grade who are actively involved in either Cub Scouts or Girl Scouts. They were invited to wear their Class A uniforms to school and I wore mine (I am the Cubmaster for Cub Scout Pack 111). Later in the program, Miss C and I, along with our student teachers, led our Learning Buddies in a recital of In Flanders Fields. The students had been practicing for two weeks and did a wonderful job! During the assembly, we recognised current and retired members of the Armed Forces who came as our honoured guests. We sang America and watched a slide show of photos of war memorials and Wiley family members who have been in the military.

After the assembly, my class had the privilege of welcoming one of the honoured guests in our classroom. He graciously answered students’ questions about life in the Army, his experiences, and his role. At the very end of the day, each student in the building received a red poppy made by war veterans in the VA hospital in Danville that were donated by the local chapter of the VFW.

I am so grateful to my colleagues who worked to make sure that this day would not become just another day of school. It was wonderful to come together as a school and to give thanks to the men and women in our lives who have served to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . .” Thank you all!


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