I wasn’t in the city on 9/11. I was in California and hadn’t even really thought about moving yet. I wasn’t even really sure I wanted to be a teacher at that point. Somehow it’s 6 years later and here I am, teaching in NY. When I student taught 12th grade it had only been a few years and the event was still fresh for many of the students. They were old enough at the time to remember, articulate their feelings, and discuss the direction of the world since that time.
My current students are 11 at the youngest, 13 at the oldest. Most of them have no memory of that day, and while they know what it’s all about, they don’t seem as affected by it. In lieu of a long activity for which they showed little interest last year, we had a school-wide moment of silence in remembrance.
There are a lot of ‘teachable’ moments that can come from 9/11. We are subject to subway searches, are regularly reminded of the orange, or yellow, or red levels of threat. There are issues of privacy and most kids can spell (or at least properly pronounce) Al Qaeda. Last in class we spent a long time talking about the Constitution, our rights, and how our fight against terror has affected those rights. These ideas come together in many parts of the curriculum, so it didn’t have to be focused around any one event or unit. We talked about safety on the subways, and we talked about racism and stereotyping, which nearly all the students have experienced firsthand in one form or another.
I hope they were able to get some sort of understanding from these things since they are big topics and there are no ‘right’ answers. I want them to know their rights. I want them to know that not everyone can be lumped into a category of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Mostly I want them to be able to make their own choices and not just follow along with whatever someone else tells them. I want them to do more than just remember.