Martha Cothren taught her students a lesson they’ll never forget when the teacher removed all desks from the classroom. And it’s a powerful reminder we all need to hear!
Exceptional teachers know that just reading facts from a textbook isn’t enough to get through to a group of high school kids. Martha Cothren is one of those exceptional teachers.
In 2005, she came up with a clever way to teach her students about the price of freedom. And her “lesson” was so powerful, it still circulates the internet today as a real-life modern-day parable!
Teacher Removed All Desks From Classroom
Can you imagine walking into a classroom with absolutely no desks? That’s exactly what happened to students of Robinson High School in Little Rock on their first day of class in Martha Cothren’s History class.
“Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?” the confused kids asked.
“You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk,” Marth replied.
Puzzled, the students started making guesses at how they could “earn” a desk. Good grades? Good behavior?
Martha explained that while grades and behavior were important, none of that earned them a seat. Students came and went, sitting on the floor while trying to figure out what their teacher was waiting to hear from them. Some kids even started calling their parents and by the afternoon, all of the local news stations had shown up at the school to report on how the “crazy” teacher removed all desks from her class.
It wasn’t until the final period when Martha Cothren revealed the lesson behind this clever stunt.
Arkansas Teacher’s Lesson Using Desks
“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 ordinarily found in this classroom,” Martha said. “Now I am going to tell you.”
Martha opened the door and twenty-seven U.S. Armed Services Veterans, all in uniform, filed into the classroom. Each veteran carried a school desk.
“You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks,” Martha said. “These heroes did it for you.”
Martha went on to explain how the brave men and women before her class traveled all around the world, sacrificing their own education and time with family so they could enjoy the daily freedoms often taken for granted.
“They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don’t ever forget it,” Martha said.
Many times when stories like this circulate, they are either highly embellished or entirely fake. But that’s not the case here. This viral modern-day parable telling how a teacher removed all desks to teach her students about freedom is a true story.
True Story With A Powerful Moral
It gained national attention during Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign. Gov. Huckabee recounted the story in several of his speeches and sometime after that, it gained Internet fame.
WATCH: Gov. Mike Huckabee Recalls Day When Teacher Removed All Desks
Martha Cothren is the daughter of a World War II Prisoner of War. She regularly invites veterans to visit her class and looks for ways to show them appreciation. In fact, in May 2005, Martha and her class held a Vietnam Veterans Recognition Week and thank-you ceremony.
Martha and her students often send care packages U.S. service members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and write letters to soldiers everywhere. And in 2006, the Veterans of Foreign Wars named Martha Cothren their Teacher of the Year.
Martha’s lesson also reminds us of our freedom as Christians. It, too, came with a price. A price that was paid when Jesus Christ went to the cross for our sin and brokenness. And that is a sacrifice we should never forget!
“In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace” Ephesians 1:7