Reflections

Reflections

Your colleages share thier feelings about the repercussions of September 11 on schools.

The effects of September 11 are still being felt by educators and students a year later.

Here some of your colleagues share their feelings about the repercussions of this event

The events that unfolded on September 11 last year were nearly beyond comprehension. We can all remember how every hour, or sometimes every minute, our perception changed on what was happening, who may have did it, and to the impact it would have on us and the rest of the country.

While the year since has clarified many of these issues, in some ways the bigger picture remains as changeable as the events of that day. Just as it was hard to measure our shock, grief and outrage, so has it been hard to measure the loss of innocence for some children, the loss of loved ones for others, and the near overwhelming desire of children to be able to understand an event that most adults are still sorting out.

What is undeniable, though, is that the events of last year did bring changes. The most obvious ones may lie in the textbooks your district has, or will soon buy. Of the four major textbook publishers, each has a few paragraphs on the event, and the picture of the firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero.

But for many, these mentions don't come close to explaining, or making sense of, the events of that day.

Help is available for educators in a variety of ways. A new survey taken in New York City about the effects of September 11 show that girls are more likely to experience psychological problems than boys; the fourth- and fifth-graders were more affected than older children, and about 75,000 of the city's 1.1 million students have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. The study, "Effects of the World Trade Center Attacks on NYC Public School Students," suggests that districts expand existing mental health services within schools, and develop a citywide system for routine screening and referral for major mental health problems.

San Francisco State University created a professional development program, called Understanding the World After September 11, for teachers. And Brown University created a five-day curriculum on terrorism, which more than 1,000 high schools say they will follow, according to a report in The New York Times.

What follows are the thoughts of educators around the country on the fallout from that day, how it has impacted their lives and school district policies.

Shelley Harwayne

Superintendent, Community School District No. 2, New York City

Collector of works for Messages to Ground Zero: Children Respond to September 11th (Heinemann, 2002)

In any district you have trauma and tragedy ... the loss of a parent, a teacher getting ill. To have a situation with such big numbers swept us off our feet. ... I think it has caused us to reexamine all our safety plans, our crisis teams, our environmental issues. District 2 is a district where instructional issues are on our front burner. This has been a year where we've had to add other things to our agenda.
We had to get very good at taking care of all aspects of children's lives. ...[We realized] how important it is to have smart people at the helm of every school. I have smart principals who are not only brilliant but brave.
I think [the Messages to Ground Zero book] will be a powerful closure. The section on hope is important. It would be a lovely book to read aloud on September 11-to tell kids what the children close to Ground Zero were thinking.
People all over the country have asked me to talk about what I've learned. Kids need art more than ever. We can't ever eliminate the arts from our schools. So many children couldn't talk about their reactions, but they could [express through art and words] what they were feeling.
When I looked at the [messages sent to New York City children] from all over the country, kids were using writing for so many more reasons than we thought possible. Clearly our New York City kids were writing to bear witness. I think it was incredible to see that children could write to lift others' spirits. These were not fill-in-the-blank stories. Kids had important things to say, and they had the voice to say it.

Joanne McDaniel

Director for the Center for Prevention of School Violence

Raleigh, N.C.

In some ways, the terrorism of September 11 was less of a shock to school districts across the country than it was to others. With Columbine and other violent incidents prompting districts to pay attention to physical security prior to September 11, the new national emphasis on such security required districts to revisit and update security plans rather than create new ones. Importantly, many districts tried to balance physical security with the provision of learning environments that communicated a sense of normalcy and safety. Many districts did take actions to ready themselves to handle bioterrorism and similar types of threats.

Christie Winkelmann

Kyrene District Spokeswoman

Kyrene Elementary School District 28

Phoenix, Ariz. area

After 9/11, a subsequent bomb threat affected several of our schools simultaneously. Kyrene took several more steps to ensure the safety of its schools. These additional efforts involved a parent working committee, two safety audits and a written agreement for how schools and police departments will work together in the event of a crisis.
First, the Kyrene Safety Committee-a group of parents that assisted district schools in developing more comprehensive emergency communication plans-was created. Parents on this committee provided feedback about how they would like to be kept informed in a crisis. The committee recommended district-wide emergency communication parameters that were later accepted and implemented in all schools as well as in the district's athletic and on-site childcare programs.

David Weiss

President-Elect, National Social Studies Supervisors Association

Director of Student Services, Lacey Township District, Lanoka Harbor, N.J.

Obviously the events of 9/11 have created a new focus in the classroom. We find that students are very interested in learning more about the Mideast and Arab world. As a department, [we may] develop an elective for students that would deal with the influence of the Muslim or the Arab world. ... Of the 31 workshops scheduled [at NSSSA's convention in November], at least five of them are going to deal directly with the aftermath of 9/11.
[The terrorist attacks have also] provided social studies teachers with the vehicle to [teach] tolerance. Our country was ready for rejuvenation in that area. We'd become a very cynical nation, into our own world and not the greater world and the greater good.
[In U.S. history,] the focus has not been on the influence of the Arab world in our country. Now it will. When the curriculum gets to the period immediately following World War II, we can take a look at the rise of Israel. The students can see how that one event has implications 50 years later.
I started teaching in the late '60s-those were tough times. ... It wasn't cool [for students] to be patriotic. I am a Vietnam veteran. Students now have a clear focus. They understand why our country has done things in the past. Why was there a Vietnam? Why did our country get involved? They can see [that] through terrorism, our country has now become vulnerable. They see it's imperative that our country unites again-to understand that we are a country of many. From many come one, e pluribus unum.

Mary Minner

Former school counselor

Rosemary Hills Primary School, Silver Spring, Md.

In my experience of being with children who have felt stressed in a variety of circumstances, including 9/11, I've seen how important it is to teach them how to be "quiet on the inside."

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