Generally Speaking: Grandparents’ Day

By MARILYN TINNIN COLUMNIST,

Judging by my Facebook newsfeed, October has definitely been the season for celebrating Grandparents’ Day in every school across the South.

Charles and I have a blended and prolific tribe of 13 grandchildren, but it seems the older ones have outgrown that ritual.

Our younger ones, however, have filled up our social calendar lately. They enjoy showing us their classrooms, introducing us to their teachers, and we appreciate getting a glimpse of their everyday routine. After all, it is really much easier for us to enter into their world of interests than for them to enter into ours.

The world of soccer, football, ballet, art shows, gymnastics, and piano recitals are much more interesting to discuss than medicare premiums, knee replacements and political insanity.

Yesterday was Grandparent Day at Presbyterian Day School (PDS) in Memphis. Two of our grandsons have attended this boys’ school from preschool through sixth grade.

Their musical productions are always impressive, and yesterday’s program was no exception. The show is a tradition with the first part and the last part being a celebration of America and a salute to the armed forces complete with the raising of the stars and stripes on Iwo Jima.

I have now seen it three times, and it gives me chill bumps every time!

PDS is celebrating their 70th year in 2019, and so the middle section of the program took us on a nostalgic tour of American pop music through the decades.

You just had to be there to appreciate the sight and sound of 500+ boys from kindergarten through sixth grade performing Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Motown, Bill Withers and more — in a very staid and very proper Presbyterian Church sanctuary yet!

I am sure I was not the only Baby Boomer grandmother who had an urge to get up and dance in the aisles!

The show was so well done; the performance so professional that I cannot compare it to anything I remember from the “olden days” at Lockard Elementary in the 1950’s and early 60’s!

At the same time, there was a faint recall of something extra special that was once a part of school days.

The smiles on those innocent, bright, young faces did bring to mind everything that was good and pure and worth preserving about school objectives and education in general. And oh, yes, lest you think otherwise, there was a broad swath of racial diversity present.

A major component of the mission at PDS is building character in the lives of the students. There is a holistic approach to everything, and it would appear that it works! I honestly think public education in my day had much the same goal.

After all, good character produces good leaders and good citizens. It is not rocket science.

When the program was over, our grandson Chase who is 10, gave us a tour of the extraordinary school.

The colorful hallways are lined with photographs of boys at work and play, displays of their original artwork and other creative projects.

On one large wall I noticed a series of vertical panels grouped together, each with a large caption at the top and a photo for illustrative purposes underneath.

Chase offered that these were the “Seven Virtues of Manhood,” an actual course taught to fifth and sixth grade students. Every young man can recite the virtues as easily as he can recite his name by the time he graduates from sixth grade!

Adventurous action photos with short descriptions defined the seven categories of virtues. The brief clues to meaning included explanations like “Godly men stick with their friends through thick and thin.

True heroes are not always successful in the way the world defines success. Bold adventurers follow where God leads and are obedient to His plans. Real men have a code of ethics they are not going to violate no matter what.” 

I have been thinking of my third grade teacher, Mrs. Grace, this afternoon. I am sure she graduated to glory decades ago, but PDS would have hired her in a heartbeat.

Every morning, as soon as she finished taking roll and collecting our lunch money, we stood beside our desks, pledged allegiance to the flag and had a short devotional.

Each week we learned a new Bible verse that began with a successive letter of the alphabet. Of course, there was a reward if we could recite all 26 in one sitting at the end of the year. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast this morning, but I can remember those Bible verses from my uncluttered third grade mind!

To my knowledge, no parent ever complained that she was harming us by teaching us Bible verses and encouraging our moral virtues.

It was a different time, and Mrs. Grace’s methods weren’t unusual at all. It really seems just a bit sad that what I observed Friday at PDS in Memphis stood out to me as such an anomaly in the present.

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