I’m not sure how everyone is feeling, but after months of receiving politically motivated phone calls and after nearly a week of watching states change colors, I might be feeling a little election-fatigued, if not downright weary. (Oh, and did I mention there’s a pandemic on?)
But I’m not weary. Not weary at all.
Last week, I think it was Wednesday, I had gone down to the Elmwood school to talk about some COVID-related matters with the head nurse, who also happens to be the nurse at the Elmwood School. During my visit, quite unexpectedly, the Assistant Principal, Jason Dimen, turned to me and asked, “Are you busy right now?” He indicated that he had something he thought I might like to see. Dutifully, I followed Mr. Dimen out of the main office and down a short hallway to the great outdoors, where I found myself in the traffic circle.
It would soon become clear that I had not donned the appropriate footwear for our mission. Walking on the balls of my feet so that my high heels wouldn’t sink into the soft earth, I found myself in the grassy clearing surrounded by trees just beyond the parking area at Elmwood. There, about a dozen third graders and one paraprofessional sat 10 feet apart with their masks off in concentric horseshoes, facing the music teacher who stood in the center behind an electric keyboard.
The students were diverse. They were of different colors, different sizes, different shapes, and different abilities. Regardless of differences, they came to sing.
In observance of Veterans Day, their teacher, Mr. Fontaine, had chosen a few American-themed songs. When I arrived, the kids were getting a mini poetry lesson on the lyrics of Woody Guthrie. Shortly thereafter, they moved on to My Country, ’Tis of Thee. Embedded in that music lesson was a mini math lesson. We learned that the date of publication was 1832, almost 200 years ago. We learned that by the time that song would be 200 years old, the kids sitting in the grassy area would be 20. (And if you’re wondering, this music teacher got those kids to a place where they could do mental math!) Their music teacher also asked the kids, “Who lived in America before the pilgrims arrived and even before Columbus arrived?” After a few guesses the kids settled on Native Americans. With poetry, mathematics, and history lessons behind us, we began the singing part of the lesson. We practiced saying (and summarizing) the words first. We listened to what the music sounded like. And then? We all began singing: twelve 3rd graders, Mr. Dimen, a paraprofessional, the music teacher, and I in the woods on a 65° day in November. Just singing. And singing with the cool breeze tousling our hair and caressing our hearts as we honored the country.
And that’s when I experienced the joy of what it means to be educated in an amazing community in the United States of America. These children sat outside on a warm afternoon--when warm afternoons shouldn’t be a thing. And they sang. We sang. I got a little teary when in their voices I could hear their pride, their innocence, their eagerness, and their potential to become fully human in this great country.
On Veterans Day, we think about the ultimate sacrifice, we thank veterans and their families, and we hold hope in our hearts for the continued freedom that allows for school children and their teachers to sit on the edge of the woods in Hopkinton, Massachusetts--and elsewhere!--singing songs that express gratitude for our freedoms.
However you enjoy American freedoms, please thank your veterans for their service.