Friday, February 25, 2011

The classroom without desks

Back in September 2005, Martha Cothren, a social studies teacher of military history at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, 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 High School Students entered the room they discovered there were no desks. "Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?" they asked. She replied "You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk." They offered suggestions, "Maybe it's our grades." "No," she said. Then they thought, "Is it our behavior?" She told them, "No, it's not even your behavior." And so they came and went ... first period, second period, third period, and so on with still no desks in the classroom.

By early afternoon, television news crews had begun gathering in Ms. Cothren's classroom, to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her classroom. The final period of the day came, and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren explained, "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 usually found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you."

At this point, Ms. Cothren went over and opened her classroom door. Twenty-seven (27) U.S. veterans, all in uniform, walked into the classroom, each one carrying a school desk. These veterans began placing the desks in rows and then walked over to stand along the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place, those kids began 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."

By the way, this is a true story. It's authenticity has been verified here by

NOTE: In 2006, the Veterans of Foreign Wars named Martha Cothren as their Teacher of the Year.
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