FF – History Lesson

Photo copyright Jan Wayne Fields

History Lesson

The coach bumps and we lurch into each others laps, laughing. We sing songs with the lewdest words we know. The teachers yell to keep the noise down, but we’re overtired and giddy; the overnight train didn’t see much sleeping.

Eventually our teacher stands. She says we’re almost there and she reminds us not to run off, or swarm over strangers.

“You’re not the first young people to arrive here after a long journey,” she says. “But yours was much more comfortable than theirs. And unlike the boys you’re going to learn about here, you’ll get to go home tonight.”


This story isn’t a memoir, although I remember the giddiness of school trips and the contrast arriving at desolate historic sites, heavy with grief and tragedy. The lines of flower buckets reminded me of photos I’ve seen of soldiers going to war or people bumpy along dirt roads in less industrialized places. I briefly pondered having the narrator be in the history not looking at it. But I didn’t have the heart to go quite that dark today, so we ended up on a school trip.

Where to is for you to decide, perhaps a concentration camp, a military cemetery… or an historic place from more recently. Maybe it’s the site of a residential school in Canada. The destination is up to the reader.



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29 responses to “FF – History Lesson

  1. I liked the teachers yelling in order to try and produce quiet. And the children swarming. So, it wasn’t too dark at all

  2. You captured the youthful enthusiasm of the school trip well, that excitement of being out of school! Hopefully they learn the lesson in amongst all the fun.

  3. My mind went immediately to the camps in WWII Germany. Good story!

  4. michael1148humphris

    Like Linda, I saw 1930s Germany

    • As I replied to her, an understandable reading. I’ve never been, but I was recently talking to a teacher about a trip he’s planning which includes Auschwitz. What an opportunity we have to look into history and learn from it. I wonder if we’ll seize the opportunity though.

  5. Andrea Robinson-Decorating Pumpkins Differently

    Sounds like a typical school/group trip. Nicely done.

  6. Great short story that facilitates memories some good, some bad, in each reader! Excellent

  7. flanders fields is one for me. when i went there to visit, it made john mcrae’s poem that we memorized by rote in school gain more flesh and bones.

  8. As you suggest, there are several ways to interpret your tale. With so many deep and dark stories among this week’s takes, I’m reading about a happy school outing!

  9. Dear Jen,

    I like the way you leave the ending to the reader. Nonetheless, it put me in mind of school or Girl Scout field trips. Well done.



  10. So well done, Jen. While I recall no trip like that, I could easily imagine myself there. The nature of children in groups pours out. 🙂

  11. It is an avant-garde school that has these types of field trips… I could feel the kids’ excitement at going, no matter where. Hopefully they come out of it a tad wiser.

  12. CGraith

    I see those kids, feel their carefree spirits, oblivious to the coming serious moments they will face. I don’t have a place in mind but the story is set up so that the kids behavior and teacher’s comments conjure up a contrast up ahead. Nicely done!

  13. Your story brought back the experience of school trips so vividly – excitement, the escape from dull lessons, eating our lunch before the coach had left the car park !

  14. Jen, skillful word weaving of a very powerful story. Excellent choice to leave it open to the reader to decide what the destination is.

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