Sometimes I get these ideas, and I honestly think I am crazy for even entertaining them. But sometimes, they take over and before good, common sense has the strength to reign me in, I am off and running before I’ve had a chance to really consider, “What am I getting myself into???”
I am the QUEEN of Biting-Off-More-Than-I-Can-Chew – and just behind that, my secondary role is the Princess of Under-Estimating. I always think, “I can handle this! No big deal! It won’t be that involved…” That should be my first warning sign…
Sometimes, the gamble pays off, and I am so glad I took the chance. And other times…well, you know how it goes…it sounds something like, “What was I thinking???”
Well, I did something like that last spring…on something of a whim, and by God, I hope this is one of the times it pays off.
Our school is launching a service-learning program that will be implemented in the next five years school-wide. By service-learing, we mean that a service project for the community or some outside group/organization is tied specifically to learning objectives; we fulfill our learning objectives by incorporating some kind of service project.
Well, at an inservice day last spring, our administration announced this to us and was soliciting some volunteers to pilot the program this school year. We were to fill out the ‘non-committal, very open-ended’ interest form if we had an idea for a service-learning project for our class. We weren’t committing, just expressing an interest.
I did have an idea…but was this really something I wanted to commit to? I am always complaining about being over-worked, pulled in too many directions…did I want to commit to something that was sure to require so much planning and extra effort and surely involve field trips? (Not a fan of the field trip. There. I said it. I know, horrible for a teacher to say. I know they are fantastic ‘learning opportunities’ but … ugh. Sometimes I think I am just too old for field trip! I might just need to pass that baton to the young,
naive, unjaded spunky new teachers.)
But since this was a ‘non-committal’ form, what could it hurt? Hmmmm…..famous last words…
Long story short, my project was selected. How could I back out now? And honestly, I didn’t really want to back out, but I was a little nervous about the amount of work involved. However, I really did see the potential of this project, and my passion in teaching truly is to see our kids live for Something bigger than their own small stories….so, I bit the bullet. I committed.
Now, the upside is that all of the participants will be in something of a ‘learning community’ – meeting regularly, doing this together with a lot of support. And since it is brand new, there aren’t a lot of high past expectations to live up to. Unless we ended up destroying who we were meant to help, we really couldn’t fail. Lots of support, low risk factor…OK, this was sounding better.
So aren’t you dying to know what our project is???
Well, it is not solidified, but here was my proposal idea. In 11th grade English, we study American lit. In our reading, we read a good deal of war literature as well as many stories written by former veterans. And without fail, their writings are either very dark or the authors come to a tragic end. My students usually question this, and we typically get into a discussion about how war really can have long-term effects on those who serve. Back then, nobody was talking about PTSD, but certainly, these writers probably suffered from this, even though it was undiagnosed (and unclassified).
So, my idea was something along the lines of helping and serving our veterans, our wounded warriors. We enjoy so many freedoms here in America, but someone (many, in fact) had to pay a very high price for what we freely love and experience here. I wasn’t sure what we could do, but certainly there was something we could do.
Now that is all well and good, but in our initial meetings, I was informed that to be legitimate “service-learning”(and not just a service project ‘sort-of-related’ to curriculum), we actually had to tie our learning objectives to this project: how could this project help our kids meet our academic objectives? So….I had to expand this a little…
What I came up with was something like this:
What if we interviewed veterans and wounded warriors (communication skills), wrote down their stories (writing skills), and created a memorial book? Part of our literature also deals with the theme of memorializing, paying tribute through literature – either through fiction, other prose or poetry, etc).
So, then in one of my walks last week (Remember? I have been getting most of my best thinking done on these walks!), I passed by all these gardens planted by the Boy Scouts in a town park.
And I began to think, ‘What if we planted a memorial garden in a local garden… Wounded Warrior Way, or something like that? We could have a dedication service and invite the veterans we interviewed to attend. We could have a ceremony and each student could bring up his ‘veteran’ and stick a sign in the garden with the veteran’s name on it to honor him/her? And then we have our memorial books available for donations that would go to Wounded Warrior??? Maybe we could even make a DVD with snippets of the veterans and the interviews and ….” and then this started taking on a life of its own.
I told you my ideas just start to run away with me…. This was getting bigger in my brain than I had anticipated. But I couldn’t help asking, ‘What if….?”
So all of this was hypothetical. Could we get in touch with Wounded Warrior? Would this be practical enough for them? Would this seem trite or self-serving? Would there be enough – or too many – veterans for us to interview? Could we get permission from a park to make a garden? Wait – I don’t know how to garden! What about the printing? What about ….
And now, I’m starting to panic. What have I gotten myself into???
But ya know what? I’m also feeling very excited about the risk. True, I have no idea what is going to happen, but I have to admit, I am loving where this could go.
So earlier this week, a Wounded Warrior commercial came on Fox News as I was making dinner. And as usual, I’m totally choked up. But at the end of the commercial, the wife of the veteran stated how important it was to them to feel remembered, like they aren’t forgotten, like they are honored.
Wait! That’s what we want to do!
I soon learned that their motto is “The greatest casualty is being forgotten.”
So, get this. I emailed Wounded Warrior Project in NY, to see if this idea is even feasible or am I just crazy???
Well, I got a response. Not only did he love our ideas…..wait for it….he asked if we would be interested in marching in the Veteran’s Day Parade in NYC with Wounded Warrior!!!!!!!
Are you kidding me????? Interested????
Oh my gosh. I was shaking. I could not believe it. My original plan was to assign the students to attend some local event on Veteran’s Day – a parade in their town, a ceremony at the VFW….I never thought we would get an invitation to march with these heroes ourselves.
I am blown.away.
OK. We are still in the early stages….but maybe this wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. Well, maybe it was, but maybe it is one of the crazy ones that just might work.
Photo Credit: Wounded Warrior Project