9/11 Plans

Some teachers are choosing to address the anniversary of the day of the September 11th attacks with little direct plans dedicated to remembrance. I think it's important to revisit that day--the pain, the confusion, the horror--and the aftermath--the unity, the support, the rebuilding, the heroes--and so I've chosen to go ahead and spend the day having students go inside what this experience was like for other students of their age.

Helping students develop and examine the importance of empathy is a core belief of my teaching philosophy. For me, it's what negotiates a person's success with almost any social relationship. It helps us overcome barriers of difference and it enables us to say, if not "I understand," at least "I don't understand but I'm willing to try."

So I've chosen to have students read excerpts from a book that came out in 2002, Annie Thoms' With Their Eyes: September 11th--The View from a High School at Ground Zero. Basically, Thoms--a teacher at Stuyvesant H.S., a magnet school 4 blocks from ground zero--and her students decided to honor the experiences of various members of their community by creating a dramatic representation of their reactions to the terrorist attacks. The students conducted and compiled various interviews with other students, school teachers, staff and community members and created word-for-word monologues. The monologues are frighteningly honest and contain every nuance of speech, all of the "uhm"s and the "like"s and all the repetitions. The monologues read like free-verse poetry. The 2-Act performance served as the school's winter drama production. The book is the script.

Students will be reading monologues in small groups. Each group will have a different monologue. They will have the option of performing portions of the pieces. Our discussion will focus on the struggle and the hope found in each monologue.

If you're a teacher, what do you think you might do this Thursday with your students?

What do you all--teacher or not--think of the idea of exploring this subject with young people?


Anonymous said...

I love your idea.

I do follow the "no direct instruction" model, however there is a specific reason. Every year since I began teaching I have had at least one student in my class who lost a parent or family member on 9/11. I myself come from the town that lost the second largest number of people to 9/11 (only behind NYC). Our guidance counselors let us know if the students are comfortable with the direct lesson on 9/11 and I have never had a student who was ready for that. And I don't know if I myself could get through it.

However, I love your idea and I just added that book to my wishlist!

enc said...

It's a great idea. There can't ever be too much empathy in the world. I hope it goes well.

Anonymous said...

Hi K. your conscientiousness is inspiring. I'm going to ask what they remember then run some clips on video and see how they react to it. Also have to ask if Saddam Hussein was hanged because of 9-11 always an interesting answer session. also : chekc this gadget out it could be cooler than sitemeter, i swiped it from rawdagguffalo's site :


Mary Lee said...

If the weather allows, I will take my 9 year olds out to our school garden and we will sit in silence and write about the plants and bugs and clouds. I probably won't mentioned what happened in 2001 when they were still in diapers. *I'll* remember, but I'll just let them have some time with nature.