INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - While most schools and all federal offices were closed on Veterans Day, Lake Tahoe School elected to remain open and put aside time to explore the history and reasons for the day. To my way of thinking, while we all enjoy holidays, too often we spend the time without appropriate reflection as to its purpose.
One of our signature programs at LTS is what we call Student Families. Our relatively small student body allows us the opportunity to divide ourselves into groups that contain at least one kindergartner through eighth grader and two faculty/administration members.
Each team is identified by its color, and the members stay as constant as possible over the years. Last year my Yellow Family graduated two eighth graders and picked up a new kindergarten girl and a boy who transferred in on the third grade level. It's a great opportunity for our students across the grade levels to interact and get to know each other - and teachers other than those in their immediate classrooms - and for every child to have the chance to stand up and develop leadership skills.
Monday the entire student body and all staff met first for a retirement ceremony for the School's American and Nevada flags, both of which had seen better days. Three members of our student council demonstrated the proper ways to fold a flag, talked to their schoolmates about the history of the American flag and of Veterans Day. They sprinkled fun facts among those of which most of us are aware.
Did you know, for instance, that the design for the arrangement of the stars for Alaska and Hawaii was the idea of a student? Apparently he was coasting with a B-, when his enterprising teacher told the boy that he would earn an A+ if he created a design that was accepted. My kind of teaching story!
Dr. Wayne Glass, recently retired Professor Emeritus from the University of Southern California and a former US Senate staffer, spoke to the students about his service in the US Navy as well as other ways citizens can serve their country. He described, with great feeling, the history of the Navajo Code Talkers.
Until just a few years ago, these veterans and heroes, whose language could not be broken by the enemy during World War II and who were significant contributors to the success at Iwo Jima and in other battles, had not been recognized for their contributions by the US Government. Dr. Glass helped sponsor a bill that ultimately brought the surviving members to Washington, D.C., to be presented Congressional Gold Medals by the President of the United States.
We ended our celebration with each Student Family identifying five "stars" that represented what is special about being an American and by each group creating a phrase to summarize the same. My favorite: "Music is the sound of freedom that some countries never hear, however ours is the perfect tone."
- Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at www.laketahoeschool.org.