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9-11: LESSONS LEARNED

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Elementaryhistoryteacher writes poignantly of her memories of September 11, and her most "rambunctious" student, T., tardy that morning, who burst into class with the news that a plane had crashed and that New York City was "on fire."

She continues:

I walked over to the television, hit the on button and switched the channel to CNN ... the only 24-hour new channel our school could get at the time. The image hit me like a ton of bricks. ...“Oh my gosh, T. You’re right.” I said as I backed up from the screen. The room got very still and we listened to the announcer. It was still early enough that both towers were still standing.

But, when she stepped out of the room for a minute to talk with her teacher partner, the first tower fell.

I walked over to the set at the same time my vice principal came into my room. She smiled and motioned to the television and said, “Turn it off.” ... We both knew this wasn’t the same thing as our first walk on the Moon or MLK’s funeral. Our students didn’t need to see anymore unfolding events. Luckily they didn’t see any bodies falling from the sky and they had not yet begun to show footage of the plane flying into the tower and the resulting explosion.

And then, Elementaryhistoryteacher reacted like anyone would:

I wanted to curl up into a ball and cry. I wanted to get my purse and go get my [own} kids. I wanted my husband. I wanted my mother and father. I couldn’t. I was the teacher. I was the adult in charge. I couldn’t let them see me upset. I had to turn off the television and get on with our day.

It's a vivid reminder of the emotional burden placed on teachers. We expect almost superhuman reactions in times of crisis.

Someone oughta write a book.

6 Comments

It is important that we as educators share with our students these emotions and feelings. Students will see our own humanity and recognize the value of putting these ideas down in text.

Thank you so much for the link and the nice words. :)

It was my fourth day as a first year teacher in the NYC school system, when I was already overwhelmed by a rambunctious group of fourth graders when another teacher waked into my room and told me to go out in the hallway and look through the window.

I could clearly see the Towers in the distance, and at that point, only one Tower had been hit. It was clear that the loss of life would be massive.

My first reaction was panic about my own family and I did a mental inventory about where everyone was at that moment in time. Then I went back into my classroom and closed the door and went back to work.
I did not know how many of my students had loved ones working downtown in those buildings, and my overwhelming feeling was that I had to protect the children who were in my charge. Closing the door was a small way of achieving that goal, at least for a little while. We did hear a collective scream from those whose rooms had a clear view of the site when the first Tower fell. There was little guidance from administration at that point in time. I did not know that the second tower had been hit and that the buildlings had collapsed until I went into the teacher's lounge during our lunch period. It was a surreal experience -- terrible and indelibly etched into my memory.

Five years later and I have still not been able to go to Ground Zero.

I remember it vividly - and I wrote about it this week in my blog. I had just dropped my daughter off at preschool and was walking my son over to the high school to visit his dad (the counselor).

The school was so quiet. I had no idea what was going on until I looked at the screen everyone was watching.

Kelly

Teaching through tragedy is something teachers have traditionally done. We're thrust into it without preparation or choice. We do what needs to be done, for the sake of kids. I wrote about this in my own blog today in response to the latest school shootings in Colorado.

I, too, remember Sept. 11th vividly as that morning I received a phone call from my sister in law in Delaware asking if I'd heard from my in-laws. They were sitting on the tarmack aboard an airplane bound for Europe at the time the Towers were hit. Needless to say, they will probably never make their dream trip to Normandy beaches after what they experienced that fateful day.

That September I was going to school full-time for my Art Education degree. The lesson I learned from that day was that the arts are a powerful tool in dealing with any emotional event. We had our share of student-made American flags in our schools but many teachers did not shelter their students from the news, but encouraged them to write poetry, paint or draw their feelings as a justifiable way of expressing their emotions. Images ranged from disturbing towers of fire and smoke, to hearts, hugs, and angels. They also poured out their hearts raising funds for victims' families and donating needed items. As terrorizing as 911 was, citizens of all ages can grow stronger from what we've learned from the terror, tragedy, and sadness of that day.

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