It’s Constitution Day, again. This year it falls on a Saturday, so I won’t be celebrating with my students until Monday. In the meantime, I am reminded of the importance to share and celebrate today, even if I only catch the end of Saturday and post late in the evening.
Saturday is always a busy day, even if it is Saturday. The past several years we’ve spent our Friday nights watching a high school football game, but W, my football playing son, graduated from high school in May and is no longer on the team. So we don’t have to be at all of the games. We’ll still root for the Tigers, but we won’t catch all of the games. Besides, O, my softball playing daughter, had a softball game Friday night and we rooted her and her team on to a win.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Preamble to the Constitution.
Seven Articles. Twenty-seven Amendments. 229 years and the framework is still valid. It still works. At the time, it was divisive. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay came together to collaborate on articles to influence the passage of the Constitution. These articles published anonymously are better known as the Federalist Papers and have been used by the Supreme Court justices to help decide many of the decisions they’ve handed down since the Constitution became the law of the land on June 21, 1788 when New Hampshire became the 9th of 13 states to ratify the Constitution. Virginia and New York, the two most populous states would become the 10th and 11th states to ratify the document before George Washington was elected our first president. North Carolina and Rhode Island would join the Union while Washington was in his first presidential term. By the time Washington made his farewell address in 1796, the Union would grow to 16 states with Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee joining the original 13 states.
But you don’t follow me to read Constitutional theory or even U.S. History, though it’s interesting. Just admit it, it’s okay. You click MtDc to find out what’s happening and read a little bit of positive in a world filled full of negativity. Continue reading We the people→
Fifteen years ago today, I was teaching seventh grade geography and the counselor walked into the room at the end of second period, she looked upset and out of sorts. After the bell rang and dismissed my second period class, another class entered, the students got to their seats, and the bell rang. Before the third period class began, the counselor read a short prepared statement that changed my day and told us that the course of history for our nation and the world had changed forever. I don’t remember what she read, but she left immediately afterwards and the room felt like the air had been sucked out of it. Somehow, we all made it through that day and over the course of the next few days we learned the true horror of that day.
This morning, fifteen years later, 9/11 is a Sunday. This time it is Bible Sunday for our church’s third and eighth graders. Eighth grade is the confirmation and class and O waited excitedly for her Bible. She was born over a year after 9/11 and for her, 9/11 holds only the meaning that we have tried to share with her. She didn’t experience it, nor did she know what the United States was like before 9/11. She only knows what it is like now.
In April 2015, on our way home from Spring Break in Washington, D. C. we stopped at the Flight 93 – 9/11 Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We will never forget.
This morning, I watched my sweet daughter O beam with excitement when she received her Bible and she could barely contain herself when she returned to the pew to sit with us for the rest of the service. She fidgeted throughout the sermon and helped me find the closing hymn in the hymnal – “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations.” We sang it as John Wesley instructed congregations in his Instructions for Singing from 1761, we payed attention to #4,
“Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength …
It was a wonderful service and the hymn was a reminder that though much has changed for our nation and the world, our principles continue to survive. May we never forget. Continue reading Bible Sunday→
Last night was a full moon and the skies were clear. B, O, and I were headed to dinner and the moon was up, yes it was late. The sun sets after 9 PM at this time of the year and we were working and playing late. Dinner was late, but its summer and we’re on a different schedule.
I stopped the car in the lane, climbed out, and captured the moon with my camera. The I got back in the car and pointed out that 47 years ago, man walked on the moon.
Except, I was wrong. The anniversary is today – July 20.
I recall the day forty-seven years ago clearly, or rather the evening. We were in Venezuela and it was a late summer night. My dad had taken a job working for Creole, an American Oil Company and we had moved to Venezuela in June 1969.
It’s the first day of summer, again. I’ve been looking forward to this day, I always do. This year is different, this day has been marked on the calendar for four years, maybe even longer.
Today, W graduates from high school. He’ll cross the stage and think this is it. Yet, it is only the beginning of a long journey.
Summer is like that. It marks an end, and a beginning. They, the ends and beginnings, tend to blur and meld over time. It’s a reboot, of sorts.
Each year, I have my own reboot. A time to reflect on what I’ve learned and where I’ve been, adjust my bearings, and chart a new course. And, for the last six years I’ve gone back and re-read what I blogged the year before at Making the Days Count dot org.
It had been six years since I began the journey at MtDC.org.
I re-read those posts this morning and as I usually do when I read an old post, I edited a couple of them correcting misspellings, updating bad links, and a finding a new video to replace one which had gone private and was no longer viewable; and I remembered writing the words with uncanny clarity. Continue reading First day, again…→
It’s Saturday morning. The forecast is rain – by the time I finish writing it will be raining – and softball will be cancelled, again. O’s game Thursday was cancelled due to wet fields. It’s the same every year, April showers bring May flowers, and softball rainouts.
Last night, I stayed late at school and wrapped up the World War II unit. The WWII test is Monday and then we’ll find out just how much my students have actually learned about America’s involvement in the war. Since we returned from spring break it’s been more and more challenging to get their focus. Most of my students seem to be more focused on ‘four more’ and how many days are left than they are in making them count. It’s a ritual which plays out every year. It’s when I work the hardest.
It’s been a busy week. The week before Holiday Break is always stressful. At school, my students were counting the days until Friday and the time off. Secretly, the teachers were, too. At home, my two kids were counting, B, my wife, is shopping and decorating our home in addition to all of the other tasks she does to keep the home running.
During the school year it’s a delicate balance for me keeping up with school work, home jobs, and family. I am constantly procrastinating with tasks I should do at home so I can do something for school – grade, plan, or reflect. In the end, somethings just don’t get done. Like my desk – it’s a mess. I am behind on my Christmas cards, I need to write a note to my mom and step-mom and thank you notes to my students who remembered me this Christmas season.
Regardless, I try to keep the kids engaged. I remind them to make the days count – to go beyond getting it done and to learn. We are covering the period in American history immediately before the Civil War.
Last week my 8th graders took a field trip to the Naper Settlement. The settlement preserves the local town history and offers educational field trips for the local schools. I had gone last year and was impressed; this year I was excited to return and I promoted the field trip with my students.The field trip is more than a visit – it’s a re-enactment of history. The history of 1856. It’s pre-Civil War and the nation is tense. Abolition is the hot topic of the day and the Naper Settlement re-enacts the period with six separate scenes. Students travel from one location to the next encountering differing viewpoints on the slavery \ abolition issue.
a Constitutionalist who wants to follow the law
a pro-slavery advocate
a printer who wants to stay neutral
a slave catcher
and a runaway slave
The students get a feel for what it might have been like at the time, including the vernacular of the time. We debriefed Wednesday in class and many students reflected that history came alive and went beyond ‘book learning.’
We finished the week watching Glory – the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and their unsuccessful assault on Fort Wagner. The 54th Massachusetts was one of several units comprised of African Americans. In our text, it is a paragraph. But the 54th Massachusetts is more than a paragraph the unit led to President Lincoln
History, it is our story: there is always an event that happened on this day sometime, somewhere that is meaningful.
Today is the 155th anniversary of South Carolina’s secession from the United States. Mississippi would follow on January 8, 1861. Nine more states would secede and the United States would be embroiled in a great Civil War, which would test the limits and resolve of our nation.
Friday was the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the 13th amendment to the Constitution. The 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States. The anniversaries present irony. The wording of the amendment is simple and plain:
Amendment XIII Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
49 words. So much meaning.
The politics behind the passage of the amendment is the subject of the movie Lincoln for which Daniel Day Lewis won an Oscar for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.
Slavery is now viewed as wrong, at the time it was the political third rail. The Civil War was fought over the issue, though Lincoln contended that the southern states could not legally secede. It was his ‘line in the sand.’
Though most people in the North were opposed to slavery, many weren’t willing to step out and openly support the abolition of slavery.
Article V in the Constitution lays out the procedures to amend the Constitution. Two thirds of the House of Representatives needs to approve any proposed amendment and three fourths of the state legislatures needed to ratify it for it to become law.
President Lincoln pushed the limits of politics and Congress approved the amendment on January 31, 1865 by a vote of 175-56, a narrow margin of two votes more than was needed to send the amendment to the states for ratification.
The United States had 36 states in 1865. The 36 included the 11 Confederate States that seceded, beginning with South Carolina on December 20, 1860 – one hundred fifty-five years ago tomorrow.
Illinois was the first state to ratify the amendment on February 1. Georgia was the twenty-seventh state, ratifying the amendment on December 6. The amendment was formally adopted into the Constitution on December 18.
Two more amendments were passed first, the 14th amendment extending citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and last the 15th amendment extending the right to vote to all citizens regardless of ‘….race, color, or previous condition of servitude.’ Source: University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law
History has a way of repeating itself, today we struggle with an assortment of issues that are clearly unjust for which we are unwilling to budge. A few push the issues and others push back.
Abraham Lincoln spoke at the dedication of a military cemetery in southeastern Pennsylvania in November 1863. His remarks were short and to the point.
Washington, November 19, 1863.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal”
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow, this ground– The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.
It is rather for us, the living, to stand here, we here be dedica-ted to the great task remaining before us — that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
246 words, 246 powerful words. Today we remember Lincoln’s words, his deeds, and we honor his legacy.
The Gettysburg Address. Initially, the speech was panned. Too short the critics claimed, but it has stood the test of time and is perhaps one of the greatest speeches in American History calling for us to re-dedicate ourselves to a new birth of freedom.
A new birth of freedom is lost on some of our students and some of or citizens, it’s not lost on me. One vote meant the difference to the passage of the 13th amendment. One vote, one person, one moment.
Over break, I have few books on my plate – all related to the Civil War and I’ll be re-watching Lincoln and Ken Burns documentary The Civil War. Looking for some angle to use with my students. Follow my books on Good Reads in the sidebar.
Today is going to be a great day, in some ways it already is. It’s Christmas time and the Christmas season. I have a few things on my plate and we have our visit to the zoo and picture with a reindeers on our agenda. In between, I have cleaning, sorting, shopping, and yes my desk and so much more. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one remembrance, one nod to history, learning all the time
It’s Christmas time. The season is upon us. Christmas will be here in sixteen days. I’ve survived Black Friday – I didn’t shop, or even leave the house.
I was four years old the first time the Charlie Brown Christmas first aired. It was 1965. We were living in Houston. We be there one more Christmas and then, we’d move to Sugar Land where I would grow up. My mom still lives in the house I call home, even though I haven’t lived there for close to thirty years.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first showing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The network produced a special 50th anniversary special and then replayed the cartoon. I watched it, again.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is an animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. Produced by Lee Mendelson and directed by Bill Melendez, the program made its debut on CBS on December 9, 1965. In the special, lead character Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the onset of the cheerful holiday season. Lucy suggests he direct a school Christmas play, but he is both ignored and mocked by his peers. The story touches on the over-commercialization and secularism of Christmas, and serves to remind viewers of the true meaning of Christmas. (Wikipedia)
Rewind, I can imagine us, my brothers and I, sitting on the couch watching the Christmas special in our jammies. For us, it was in black and white; we wouldn’t get our first color television until 1971. I don’t have a specific memory of watching it, I just know we watched it. Sitting on the couch.
My kids have watched it, too.
A lot has changed since then. I can watch A Charlie Brown Christmas anytime I want – regardless of the season. And, much has stayed the same, A Charlie Brown Christmas was, in a way, a protest show about the commercialization of Christmas.
It bothers me that the Christmas season seemingly begins earlier every year. But, I don’t let it get me down.
A few years ago, I purchased the music from the show and loaded it on my iPhone. I play it as often as I can. I plug in my speakers in my classroom and play it before school starts and sometimes in class when my students are working, no one tires of the tunes. The music is calming and peaceful and it reminds me of the importance of the season.
I remember driving home to Ohio once – I don’t recall when. But, the backseat was in an uproar. My two backseat passengers couldn’t seem to get along, the dog was whining and barking, there was heavy traffic on the road and I popped in the CD. Presto, chango. We listened, whistled softly hummed, and thought of the gift of Christmas.
We won’t be driving to Ohio this Christmas. I am not sure what our plans are, but it will be Christmas. But, wherever we go we will remember the meaning of Christmas.
I am a teacher. I teach kids history, some kids get it and others, will get it later.
We are studying the period in US History right after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution – the first fifty years from President Washington to President Jackson. On Monday morning when my students sat down in class for the new unit, I challenged them to name as many presidents as they could. I gave them ten minutes.
I had taken the same challenge the week before. I got 42 presidents and had 41 of them in chronological order. Give it a whirl and post your number with your comment.
The average for my students was 11. The high was 34 and the low was two. I do not think the ‘2’ tried, the next low was six, which is about right.
Tuesday was my birthday and I modelled the reading and thinking process with my students.
Wednesday was Veterans Day and my students learned the meaning of the day and the inspiration behind the poppy symbol.
Thursday I continued modelling and gave them homework – finish President Washington and we will review Friday in class.
Yesterday was Friday and in class, we were reviewing George Washington’s second term and the Neutrality Act came up. George Washington was an isolationist and believed in the dangers of political factions and parties. Essentially, he was a Federalist believing in the power of a strong centralized government. Alexander Hamilton Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury and architect of our financial system agreed with Washington. On the other side of the argument were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – writers of two of our most important documents – the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, respectively. Jefferson and Madison argued against being neutral and siding with France.
Once again, I used music to make my point and I played “Cabinet Battle #2” from Hamilton: An American Musical.
They got it, I think. “…if you don’t know, now you know. Mr. President.….”
For my students it was 9/11, they do not know. Most of them were not alive when the day unfolded and our world changed, forever.
9/11/2001 was my son W’s first day of pre-school – he was three. He remembers momma standing in front of the television crying and asking her what was wrong.
Momma replied, “Bad news.”
To him, and all of us, 9/11 is the day of the ‘Bad News.’
Yet, it doesn’t have to be the day of the Bad News.
At school, we were looking for a way to mark the day and remember. The flag flew at half-staff, we observed a moment of silence, and the above ‘Today in History’ slide appeared in the daily announcements. Then, our school went about our day – learning, guiding, leading, assessing, re-teaching, and so many other verbs. We do it every day.
Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”― George Santayana, The Life of Reason: Five Volumes in One
This fall, I’ll be teaching history full time for the first time in my teaching career. I am excited and I am worried. History gets a bad rap, especially with 13-14 years olds. Many folks believe history is remembering all sorts of dates and facts, and while that’s part of it, it’s not the reason we study history. We study history to learn from our mistakes and move forward as a people, as a society.
This past year, I taught one section of history and it opened my eyes, again. American society seems to repeat itself every other generation – the issues my great grandparents faced, my generation faces today. In the 1840s immigrants – the Irish – were blamed for the country’s ills. Three generations later in 1900 – 1920s a different group of immigrants – eastern and southern Europeans were blamed, today it’s yet another group of immigrants longing for freedom.
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” From the “New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus
In the last quarter of the school year, I suggested a daily dose of history and volunteered to manage it. Administration ALWAYS appreciates initiative and follow through. Each school day I’d select an event and create a slide for the morning announcements. My colleagues knew I was behind it and let me know they appreciated the reminder of the importance of each day. Sometimes, I’d tweet it with my school twitter account – @ScullenWatkins.