Appreciating our educational opportunity

One of my teacher friend emailed me this story so I decided to copy and paste it here because I liked the message. I don’t know where she got it because it is one of those chain letter.  Normally, I don’t read chain letters, but the title caught my eye.  I’m glad I did, because this is a great story of how our students need to be reminded of how lucky they are to live in a country where they can get their education for free.  This story reminds me of the kids in Laos who are thankful for the educational opportunities given to them even though they sometimes do not necessarily have all the tools they need.  It is sad to see that some kids in America has to be forced, threatened and mandated to go to school. Of course, not all American students are like this, just some who are not appreciative. I am lucky to be teaching a group of awesome Advanced Placement kids who are excited to be in my class. Yes, I am overwhelmed sometimes being responsible for close to 200 kids and their education, but their enthusiasm is infectious. I don’t mind having 38 to 40 kids per class because their willingness to learn brings a smile to my face.


 In September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a Social Studies teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock, 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, she removed all of the desks from her classroom.  When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.

Looking around, confused, they asked, ‘Ms. Cothren, where’re our desks?’

She replied, ‘You can’t have a desk until you tell me what you have done to earn the right to sit at a desk.’They thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s our grades.’  ‘No,’ she said. ‘Maybe it’s our behavior.’  She told them, ‘No, it’s not even your behavior.’

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period, still no desks in the classroom.  By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms. Cothren’s classroom to report 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 desk-less 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, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it.

Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniform, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets placed the school desks in rows, and then they walked over and stood along the wall.

By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place some of those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Martha said, ‘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, to be good citizens.  They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education.  Don’t ever forget it.’

This is a true story….

A veteran – whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve – is someone who, at one point in their life, signed a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’, for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.’

That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.


3 thoughts on “Appreciating our educational opportunity

  1. Laotian Teacher

    Ginger and Jane, I like the story myself because of the message. I posted it to my webpage for my classes and the kids agreed that they do take education for granted.

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