How the Circus Brought Patriotism into My Classroom

Patriotism. I have always felt pride in America.  It was just part of my growing up, and that’s a good thing.  My fifth grade teacher, Miss Pinson, taught us to sing all the patriotic songs.  She sang with gusto, and we did too.  I remember it like it was yesterday.

Thanking a veteran was a different story.  When I was a child, the veterans were home from WWII and Korea.  Most chose to resume their former lives, and few talked about the war.  I don’t recall seeing a veteran in uniform.

I never had a chance to thank a veteran when I was a child.

Fast forward to my early years teaching preschool.  I took my class to the Shrine Circus.  That’s when things changed.  Drastically.

I was as excited as the children were to go to the circus.  Parents were, too.  Everyone got settled in their seats.  The lights went out and a huge American flag dropped down.  Then, “The Star-Spangled Banner” began to play.  I stood up and started to sing, like I always do.  I looked around at the children.  They were playing.  I looked around at the parents.  They were chatting.

I was shocked.  These were my children and my  parents.  What were they thinking?  How did they not know?  I went into frantic mode, rushing to every child to place their hand over their heart and to take off their hat.  I tried to remain calm, yet I’m sure I looked like a lunatic.  I wanted to yell. What’s the matter with you?  The National Anthem is playing!  This was a wake-up call.

I knew I had to teach children about patriotism.  

I started teaching with the American flag, since a big flag had been lowered at the circus and was fresh in children’s minds.  Rick Smith, a Navy veteran and a parent in my class, came to school.  He unfurled his American flag.  That flag in a small space- my classroom- was gigantic.  Children were awestruck.  He told us about the stars and stripes, and the colors.

I’ll never forget how he showed the children to stand.  It was standing tall, but it was so much more.  When you feel proud, it shows.  That’s what he taught the children.

Next came singing.  Like Miss Pinson in fifth grade, I taught children patriotic songs.  Sometimes we sang as I played the autoharp, and sometimes we sang as we read the book.  Singing + children = joy.

On Veteran’s Day each year I began inviting soldiers into our classroom to share that joy of singing patriotic songs.  We make a red, white, and blue cake for snack.  We draw pictures and write a big thank you note.  It is our way of saying Thank You.  At long last, I, too, have an opportunity to properly thank a veteran.

From the circus, to Rick Smith and the American flag, to singing patriotic songs, and beyond- patriotism and thanking veterans has been part of my classroom.  Children understand.  They love that feeling of pride.

Jennie

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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39 Responses to How the Circus Brought Patriotism into My Classroom

  1. beetleypete says:

    You know how to instill values into your children, alongside education. They are American values perhaps, but no less important for that, as you and they are Americans.
    Another story that was a joy to read.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. balroop2013 says:

    Lovely post Jennie. I am proud of you!

  3. Tina Frisco says:

    I wish more teachers thought more about instilling values in children than in merely teaching them to read, write, and spell. The latter are vital to how well we navigate the world, but the former is vital to who we become as a person. Commendable, Jennie ♥

  4. I’m saddened that many things just aren’t ‘known’ to do anymore…thanks for helping to fill that gap.

  5. It is wonderful that you can teach your children to take pride in their wonderful and great country.

  6. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Time to visit Jennie Fitzkee’s preschool classroom and find out what the children are discovering. Today Jennie talks about patriotism and pride and how to thank those that have served.

  7. What a wonderful Veteran’s day post, Jennie. Full of love for country and respect for our soldiers. I still get choked up every time I sing the anthem or enter a voting booth! Despite all its challenges, this is still a country to be proud of. Happy Veteran’s Day. 🙂

  8. A lovely post on this special day, Jennie. And I admire the way you have instilled the pride in your country in your pupils. Seems to me that some of the parents need a lesson in valuing their country also. Sadly that is missing in the UK as well.

  9. dgkaye says:

    Jennie you are amazing. The US needs many more Jennie’s like you, especially now. ❤

  10. Things have certainly changed since I went to school. But I don’t honestly remember being “taught” about what it means to be patriotic. My father was a 20 year service man and my first husband served during Vietnam. It was part of who we were. I can’t sing a patriotic song, ever. I choke up with tears every time I hear them and no sound comes out. I think my children can quote chapter and verse of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Our freedom is not free and they know it. Keep teaching. We need you there.

    • Jennie says:

      Wonderful words, Marlene. Thank you for sharing your story. Really. I still get choked up when I sing a patriotic song, too. It fills the soul, doesn’t it? And our freedom is not free. Many thanks!!

  11. Norah says:

    Great post, Jennie. I like that the children were shown how to stand so that they feel pride. It really does make a difference.

  12. noelleg44 says:

    Thank you for YOUR service, Jennie! What is wrong with these parents? They are the ones who should be teaching such basic values to their children, But how lucky these children are to have you!

  13. reocochran says:

    So cool! You’re the best and most fun teacher, Jennie. 🌹💕

  14. L. Marie says:

    So many values have been lost in these days. I’m glad that teachers like you exist.

  15. You’re doing such a great job instilling pride in all your little students. Interesting to hear about your long ago circus trip and to picture you dashing about, teaching your students how to show respect and participate during the National Anthem.

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