“How do I teach at this difficult time? I teach carefully, desperately, deliberately, and honestly. The day after the World Trade Center was attacked, a young Arab high school student stopped me in the hallway and grasped my hand a little too tightly. She looked pleadingly into my eyes and said, ‘Miss Darvin, I hope that the other kids understand that my family and community had nothing to do with this. They know that, right?’ I took a deep breath and felt tears springing to my eyes. What should I say to this girl? I knew in my heart that there would be those people who wouldn’t understand, who would let hate and prejudice cloud their judgment and their willingness to understand what had occurred. At the same time, I thought about my role as a teacher. I am supposed to help the students feel safe. I am supposed to tell them that everything’s going to be all right. At that moment, though, honesty was the only thing that I could offer to her. ‘I hope so,’ I said softly. ‘I really hope that they do.’ The next morning, on my way to school, I stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast. As I stood in line, I overheard two people talking behind me. One voice said, ‘They should take all of the Muslims that live in New York and send them back to where they came from. We don’t need them here.’ The second voice replied, ‘That’s too good for them. We should just execute them all.’ I thought about my student and began to cry. I left quickly, without any breakfast.”
From Jacqueline Darvin’s “Teaching in the Days After September 11, 2001,” an essay in the March 2002 issue of English Journal, published by the National Council of Teachers of English.
A version of this article appeared in the March 27, 2002 edition of Education Week