Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and independent consultant, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com.

Education Opinion

The Little Chapel That Stood: Remembering 9/11

By Peter DeWitt — September 10, 2011 3 min read

Around the Chapel,
Of Old St. Paul,
Blow the dancing leaves
Of the coming Fall.
In the morning breeze
They leap and fly
Beneath the towers
That scrape the sky

(The Little Chapel That Stood, 2003).

The summer is a great time to reflect on past, present and future practices as we sit in our empty buildings spending quality time with out secretaries. As administrators, how can we have a bigger impact on our students? How can I get students to want to talk with me instead of having them fear my title? How do I reconnect with the teacher I used to be before I became a principal? The older I get, the more there is a chance I will become disconnected.

It all begins with reading. I was having an issue making it to each classroom to read, so I decided to meet the kids on common ground...in the library. We will have “Story Hour” every week in our school and I am the reader. Deb, our school librarian will provide me with some great books and I’ll pick a few of my favorites as well. We also plan on choosing books that have the same curriculum focus as the grade levels I will be reading to.

I orginally planned one session, but quickly added three more sessions to the day. The Little Chapel That Stood was the first book I read to our 2nd through 5th graders. Although I will not always read books that have such a heavy message, it was important for 9/11 to be a part of our conversation. The students have been exposed to the tragic event through the media and conversations at home with their parents so many had some basic knowledge of the event.

As I begin my sixth year as the principal, I have been brainstorming ways to engage our students and get to know them better. I take them off the bus every morning with the assistance of our teacher’s aides, stop by their classrooms to say good morning, eat lunch with them and try to learn all of their names (a little over 400 kids!) but I want to do more.

Over the past two years we have seen so many tough times in education that we need to find fun ways to connect with our students, and there is no better way to do that than through good literature. As much as observing classes is a great way to see teachers and students in action, I wanted a way where I could be responsible for providing them with some educational lessons.

Books with a Message
I have to admit that I was apprehensive about reading the book entitled The Little Chapel That Stood to our elementary students last Friday. The story, which was written by A.B. Curtiss and illustrated by Mirto Golino, is about St. Paul’s Chapel which is across the street from where the World Trade Centers once stood. The strong little chapel was built in the mid-1700’s and still stands today. It has quite the history.

We all remember where we were on 9/11. It was a day that we all felt unsafe, stunned and we were not sure how to move on. That insecure feeling still surfaces as I think about that day because the whole event still seems so raw.

As the centuries passed,
And the city grew
Dense
Its buildings grew higher
And wider,
Immense.
And tallest and grandest,
The city’s great pride,
The New York
Twin Towers
Rose up by its side
(Curtiss, 2003).

Now that we have approached the tenth anniversary of that tragic day, our school was trying to figure out how to commemorate it and educate our students in a natural way. To avoid the conversation about September 11th with our students would be irresponsible. As a public school system it is our job to discuss events like this with our students. We just need to do it in an age appropriate manner.

We have a tendency to make reading so scientific that sometimes we forget to make it fun. As a principal, I think it is really important that I make it fun because too often I’m the symbol of discipline and order. I want to be the symbol of fun and excitement. It’s kind of like a campfire story without the campfire. Our goal is to find ways to bond closer together, which reading definitely does, and The Little Chapel That Stood is definitely a story about an event that bonds us together.


Follow Peter on Twitter.

Curtiss, A.B. & Mirto Golino (2003). The Little Chapel That Stood. Old Castle Publishing. CA.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools
Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read