Port Rowan, Ontario was put on the map by this extraordinary teacher from Valley Heights High School back in 2005
On September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a History teacher at Valley Heights High School in Port Rowan, Ontario , 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 in her classroom. When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks. ‘Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?’
She replied, ‘You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.’
They thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s our grades.’ ‘No,’ she said.
‘Maybe it’s our behaviour.’ She told them, ‘No, it’s not even your behaviour.’
And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom. Kids called their parents to tell them what was happening and by early afternoon television news crews had started gathering at the school 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 or 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) Veterans, all in uniform, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place 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. They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have. 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.’
By the way, this is a true story. And this teacher was awarded Veterans of Foreign Wars Teacher of the Year in 2006. She is the daughter of a WWII POW.
Year after wonderful year, the Remembrance Day theme prompts words and music that all show we do still remember. Since November 11, 1919, the first Remembrance Day, people the world over have celebrated the coming of that peace. That hasn’t always meant that peace perseveres but it does show the underlying wishes of ordinary people. We don’t want war. We don’t want our sons and daughters, wives and husbands facing the bullets of hate in a hail of gunfire.
We, the people, want to live in harmony with our neighbours, secure in the preservation of our peaceful world. I hope that all of those who think of fomenting hatred and of acting with hate in their hearts will stop. And be the golden rays of shining sun that can cover our world so that Remembrance Days will finally fade out because no one remembers a world without peace, harmony and happiness for all.
I have a new book coming out soon, The Loyalist’s Daughter, the prequel to my Loyalist trilogy. More on that soon. For now, here is the lovely cover.