Education Opinion


September 26, 2001 4 min read
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Our high school in Jersey City, N.J., is nearly opposite the World Trade Center, just a short trip across the Hudson River. Ironically, our first written and discussed topic for Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, was, “American History: Who Cares?”

To the Editor:

Our high school in Jersey City, N.J., is nearly opposite the World Trade Center, just a short trip across the Hudson River. Ironically, our first written and discussed topic for Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, was, “American History: Who Cares?”

As expected, the kids wrote about how boring history is, and how it’s “not about us, or things that happen around here.” Today, from the vantage point of our east-facing windows, all that has changed.

Mario Navetta

Jersey City, N.J.

To the Editor:

I am an education student with only one year left before beginning my teaching career. I am also a parent with two sons in elementary school. It’s important, I think, that we, as educators, use our positions to give children the amount of information they need to comprehend tragic events. I’m not advocating that we tell them everything or show graphic images in our classrooms, but even kindergartners should be told that something bad happened in New York City on Sept. 11. A teacher can be objective without scaring a child.

In the school where I will intern, the principal issued a directive on the day of the terrorist attacks for teachers to give out no information. So teachers said absolutely nothing to their students. Although my sons are in a different school, I was horrified that perhaps, if they hadn’t heard about the attacks in their schools, they would turn on the TV or be told by students on the bus home before I could be there with them. I was grateful when I learned that their teachers had briefly mentioned what happened and allowed the students to voice their concerns and feelings.

Yes, it’s important that we don’t cross the line between what are parents’ rights and responsibilities and what are teachers’, but not to talk at all to students about such momentous events sends the wrong message. And some children don’t even have parents at home. Whom can they trust for the kind of communication they need?

Diane Thomson

Waukesha, Wis.

To the Editor:

On the day of the attacks on New York and Washington, our middle school chose to explain and inform. We spent a good part of our school morning watching the news reports, in English and in Spanish; explaining the terms being used and their meanings; talking about the historical relevance of the events and connections; and discussing what we could do, living on the other side of the country, to help out the people in these cities.

The kids in our school (and I suspect elsewhere) all want to do something. So the elementary school is starting a “penny drive.” All of our students are from the inner city, and their families do not have a lot of discretionary income. So we also have discussed making a quilt, as was done after the shooting deaths at Columbine High School, as well as making and distributing ribbons to wear as a sign of remembrance.

Patty Ann Bryant

Phoenix, Ariz.

To the Editor:

Educators should be aware that there are some good links on the American Psychological Association’s Web site for information on dealing with disasters: both on the home page and if you search for Oklahoma City. The address is www.apa.org.

David Weiss

Long Island, N.Y.

To the Editor:

I learned of the tragedy while supervising the hall outside my classroom between classes. My initial reaction was, “You kids believe too much of what you hear; I’ve been to that building and I know that what you’re saying is not possible.”

When the teacher next door verified the information, I felt a sense of horror, a desire to know more, and a fierce determination to remain calm. A hand-delivered message from the principal, however, directed teachers not to turn on TVs or radios and to wait for further information from the administration, which never came.

Meanwhile, I didn’t teach geometry that period. We spent the class time discussing feelings, reactions—and the directive not to watch television. That had surely been meant to help control panic, I insisted, not to suppress information. Initial reports would not, in any event, be able to answer our questions of who, what, how, why, how many, and—most specifically—who is lost?

That night, I cried a lot—every time I failed to learn of my own daughter’s whereabouts. She lives in New Jersey and works in New York City. I contacted my best friend, whose husband had seen the second plane hit the World Trade Center while on his way to a meeting there. It took two days, but I finally learned that my daughter was all right. Now, I’ll be much better able to focus on my students and their academic needs.

Gloria Satchell

Kingsville, Texas

To the Editor:

I am a first-year elementary education student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the mother of an 8-year-old boy. The Madison school district decided not to tell the system’s elementary students about the terrorist attacks, but to let parents discuss the tragedy with their children later as they wished.

I found my own son very angry about these outrageous acts. It was sad for me to see him so angry at such a young age. But, at the same time, I came to realize how strong, patriotic, and loyal he is. He cares about his fellow man and his country, and that makes me proud.

I am trying to learn more from current teachers about how they are handling this terrible situation in the classroom. But I pray that, when I teach, I will rarely if ever need to use such skills in quite the same way.

Judi Luciani

Madison, Wis.


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