The table was set for members of the Seymour police and fire departments.

Margaret R. Brown Elementary School students in kindergarten through second grade made placemats explaining what they are thankful for and glasses with messages such as “You are the bravest,” “You are my role model” and “Thank you for protecting us.” One simply said: “You rock.”

As the eight police officers and firefighters took their seats, third-, fourth- and fifth-graders wearing orange aprons and carrying trays took down each of their orders for a Thanksgiving meal.

Turkey (white meat, dark meat or both), dressing, mashed potatoes (with or without gravy), green beans, sweet potato casserole, rolls and butter, lemonade, water and tea (sweetened or unsweetened) were on the menu. Then they topped it off with apple crisp (with ice cream or whipped cream), dirt pudding or pumpkin roll for dessert.

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Serving a meal to those who serve and protect the community on a daily basis was the students’ reward for collecting the most golden tickets during October.

This school year, the Seymour school is participating in the One Book, One School program and reading Ilene Cooper’s book “The Golden Rule.”

A copy of the book is in each classroom, and all students and staff members read it once a month and participate in activities. They are presented a golden ticket each time they are caught doing something nice for someone else, going along with the golden rule of treating others as you would like to be treated.

It meant a lot to the police officers and firefighters that the school chose to honor them.

“It was just a nice gesture,” said Jason O’Neal, a firefighter with the Seymour Fire Department. “It was just this time of year being thankful for a lot of things, and the fact that the school took time to be thankful for the community first responder personnel, it’s special. The fact that kids are doing it makes it even more special.”

Jack Hauer of the Seymour Police Department serves as a school resource officer for Seymour Community School Corp. Since he helps protect students on a daily basis, he said it was nice to be recognized with the meal.

“It’s fantastic. Just to get to interact with all of the students is great,” he said. “I really appreciate being able to work with them every day like I do. It’s the best job ever.”

While the food was good, Hauer said, he was most impressed with the service.

“It was excellent,” he said, smiling.

O’Neal responded quickly when asked about the best part of the meal.

“It was all good, but if you told me to pick a favorite, I would pick the dressing,” he said. “The dressing was fabulous.”

At the end of the meal, the police officers and firemen found out they could take the placemats and glasses home with them. They also were given a cookbook and handmade cards.

“I was not expecting any of that. I am very interested in looking at the cookbook,” O’Neal said. “When you have a kid who goes through the effort and time to make you something, you’ve got to take time and realize they put some thought into it, so it’s very nice.”

‘See it in their faces’

O’Neal said he interacts with kids a lot through his job; and when he found out the school was presenting the meal, he knew it was going to be a first-class event.“I could see it in their faces how much they were enjoying it. So that made it even more enjoyable for us,” he said.

Both Hauer and O’Neal said they also were glad to see the students learning about the golden rule.

“It’s nice that it’s reinforced in the school,” Hauer said. “I don’t think that they have to be taught. Most of them already know it when they get here, but to see it in action like this is great.”

O’Neal said it’s a good lesson for everyone.

“It’s a universal lesson,” he said. “If everybody would just follow the lesson that they are trying to put forth, the world would be a lot better place.”

Since the golden ticket program started at the beginning of the school year, Principal Tony Hack said, it has proved to be a good thing for everyone.

Each month, students who receive the most golden tickets are rewarded with a special activity. In August, the whole school participated in “Blacktop Boogie” outside to get everyone fired up about the golden rule.

Another time, the winners from each classroom competed against the high school boys and girls basketball teams in a kickball game on the playground.

Bridget Longmeier, the school’s literacy coach, said she was impressed with how the students were most excited about serving the meal.

“This is their prize, to serve, and look how excited they are,” she said. “It gives me tears in my eyes. That’s what gives me the chills.”

‘This is really cool’

Fourth-grader Lucas Fisher and fifth-graders Brooklynn Osborne and Trinity Couch were among the top golden ticket winners for October to help serve the meal.“This is really cool because I got those golden tickets, and I got to meet these guys that protect us, which is awesome,” Lucas said.

“I was really happy, and I think it was really fun,” Brooklynn said. “They do so much for us, and I think it’s good for us to kind of give them something back. I like this because we got to show how much we appreciate them doing what they do. We got to do something for them since they’ve been doing something for us almost all of their life.”

Trinity also said it was fun to serve the meal.

“It shows how much we give thanks for them and how much we appreciate them for what all they do and all they’ve done and as much as they are going to continue doing,” she said.

The three students agreed the golden rule has been a good lesson for the school.

“It made me work harder to be better because then I got a golden ticket,” Lucas said. “At the end of the year, I think I’ll just be good without getting something or a reward. We can just go on our own and do good.”

Brooklynn said it feels nice to do something good for others.

“It makes me feel more responsible, and I know I can succeed,” she said.

‘Looking at the whole child’

Trinity said she has seen a difference in students.“It helps kids be better,” she said. “If you get into trouble and you turn your acts around, it helps them learn from yes to no and right from wrong.”

Assistant Principal Lisa Speidel said the One Book, One School program has been a great way for the school to come together.

“We’re all using common language, from teachers, administrators, students,” she said. “What we know is that we’re doing more than just teaching students to read and write and do math. We are looking at the whole child.”

Longmeier said school counselor Karen Munson helped teach students about character and how to treat others.

“We talk to them all the time, ‘You can’t control everyone else, but you can control you and how you treat others,’” Longmeier said. “That’s a common theme we talk about every month.”

Even when Hack and Speidel are doing discipline, they refer to the golden rule, asking the student, “How was this being golden?” The student then realizes it wasn’t a positive action.

Also, during morning announcements, “shoutouts” are read, where students and staff can submit special messages about someone and their good deed.

A quilt project also is in the works. Each classroom is picking a word from the book and will come up with a design to incorporate into a quilt, which will be displayed at the school.

Speidel said she has emphasized to students that they should do or say good things from their heart. For the most part, she has witnessed that.

Serving the Thanksgiving meal was a good opportunity to practice the golden rule, she said.

“With kids, no matter what it is, when you raise the bar, kids go for it,” Speidel said. “They rise to the occasion no matter what it is. We set the bar high, and they do everything they can to jump it and get it.”

At a glance

For every act of kindness and generosity or show of respect to others, students at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School in Seymour can earn a golden ticket from teachers or staff who observe the action.

The tickets are for students who are Goal oriented, Observant of others, demonstrate Leadership, are Dynamite listeners, give Extra effort and have Noteworthy work habits (GOLDEN). They also can be earned by being Trustworthy, Independent, Cooperative, a student who Keeps trying, is Excited about learning and is Thoughtful (TICKET).

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.