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?