Today is Martin Luther King Jr. day here in the US. For many of us, it is a day free from work and a day at home. As a school employee, it is the end of a three-day weekend, just before the start of second semester. The kids are home, as are their teachers, and I have to wonder to what purpose.
Over the past several days I saw a few posts on my twitter feed grumbling about schools in the South using today to "make-up" one of their snow days. These posters saw it as a sign of disrespect for the day. Their opinion was that the day would be better spent out of school and in some form of service. I understand where they are coming from, I do. I think it is very important for our students to learn the value of service to their community. After all, I was the teacher who put together the volunteerism project as a choice for the junior/senior project where I used to work. I am one of the advisers for our Be the Change Team, and our fall project was to donate to our local food pantry for the Thanksgiving Dinner.
However, I also have been reading my Facebook news feed the past several days. I have seen many of my friends posting their plans for today, and while there are some who have postings honoring the late Mr. King, there are also many who have taken advantage of a three-day weekend and are off on trips, using today to get family medical appointments done, shopping, or simply resting at home. I suspect that many, if not most of, the teenagers I work with are doing this today rather than utilizing today to be in service of their community.
I'm not trying to be preachy, but I really do think that today would be better served if we weren't off school. We are in session for the following holidays:
Pearl Harbor Day
Now, I realize that these aren't all "holidays" in the typical sense of the word. But, on those days our students are typically doing things to honor the day. For Veteran's Day, the VFW brings in speakers for our students. On Election Day the older students in our government class go to volunteer at the polling places, the younger students hold mock elections. On Inauguration Day (when this applies) we stop the day to watch the ceremonies. I could go on, but you get the idea. Sometimes, being in school can be just as good as taking the day "off" and being home to sleep in and not being aware.
I guess what I am saying is, why would it be bad for our students to be in school today where we could do a school-wide service day? If a parent wanted their student to participate in a community event related to MLK day, I believe that would be excused like any other event. Yet, sometimes we do get things right. Sometimes schools, the teachers who work in them, and the students who are in them get things right. I wish I could have spent today at work with my Be the Change Team, finding ways to serve our community. It would be more in the spirit of Dr. King than what many of us are doing today. Don't you think?
"Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve.