Take A Vet To School Day
This year at Metz Elementary, we celebrated our 2nd Annual Take A Vet To School Day. This initiative that was started by The History Channel two years ago as a national campaign, linking veterans of all ages with students. In the spring of 2007 when I was in Washington D.C. to receive my National Teacher Award, I attended a breakfast hosted by Libby O’Connell who is the Chief Historian of the History Channel. It was then that she talked about this wonderful initiative and inspired me to coordinate an event at my own school.
I realize it may be to late to organize anything at your school this year, but I am hoping that by putting this information out there, more teachers will hear about it and participate next year. This event is one of the highlights of our entire school year, and it is something the students and the vets will have memories from for the rest of their lives. While I happen to organize a school-wide event, you can do this with just your own class if that is what would work best for you.
There is a main website for Take A Vet To School Day. It provides Teacher Resources, the Story of Veterans Day, Video Clips, Image Gallery and more. It is a great starting point for anyone wanting to organize this event at his or her own school.
To give you some visual perspective, our local Fox station covered Metz's Take a Vet To School Day event this year. Also, there was a little slideshow of photos from the assembly, taken by Ricardo B. Brazziell of the Austin American Statesman.
Preparing for the Event
As the coordinator, you have to find Veterans to attend. Start with contacting your local VFW Posts and sending a flyer out to your school community and see where that leads you! It took me quite a bit of legwork to round up the 40 Veterans we had in attendance last year, but one phone call lead to another and I now have several contacts throughout the city of Austin who help me locate Veterans for the event. Of course, I also collected contact information from all of the Vets who attended our first Take a Vet To School Day in 2007, and many returned again this year.
To prepare the students ahead of time, teachers have class discussions about the US Armed Services and who Veterans are. There is a wonderful video created by The History Channel about Veterans Day made specifically for students. I videotaped this from Cable in the Classrooms, which offers commercial free, educational programming for teachers to use in their classroom. This video ties together all your students need to know about Veterans and Veterans Day with incredible footage and interviews.
Our students write stories and poems about freedom, heroes and patriotism. We also decorate the hallways in red, white and blue and everyone wears the same colors on the day of the event. Last year, my apprentice teacher Layne Anderson, created a huge American flag that was dubbed “The Wall of Fame”, and each of the Vets who attended signed their names. This was a big hit for the students and the Vets and we left it up through the New Year. Students also prepare interview questions for their visiting Veteran ahead of time using class discussion and research as a springboard for deciding which questions to ask.
The Day of the Event
I partner with Time Warner Cable to sponsor a breakfast for the Veterans the morning of our celebration. Check with your local cable provider, because they may be very willing to do the same. The Vets are able to arrive early and meet each other and eat. I then escort them in to the cafeteria where the entire school is waiting to give them a huge round of applause upon entering. We have a short assembly where we recite the pledge, sing patriotic songs, have a couple of Veterans address the students, and have a couple of class presentations. This year my class sang, “You’re a Grand Old Flag”. Because this was our 2nd year celebrating Take A Vet to School Day, I was also able to create a slideshow of last year’s event to show at the assembly. Finally, you could also try to contact a local official to speak at the event; I keep trying, but haven’t had any luck yet!
After the assembly, each class leaves two students to escort their assigned veteran back to their classroom for intimate interviews. Once in the classroom, students read their questions and engage in an oral history interview with their Vet. I am usually running around like crazy getting picture of everyone. Some of which I will share with you here! If you click on any of the images, they will enlarge.
It is an honor and a privilege to coordinate “Take a Vet to School Day” for Metz. It is a heart-felt learning experienced for everyone who is involved. It is such a simple thing to say “Thank You”, but its sentiments are resounding. So “Thank You” to every Veteran, who has given selflessly to protect the freedom and people of these United States.
From the greatest generation to the latest generation, let’s support our vets!