Remembering September 11
I was in the sixth grade on September 11, 2001. I remember huddling around a tiny television in the science room, surrounded by the entire sixth grade class—a group of 40 or 50 students that I had gone to school with since kindergarten—and watching the grisly footage with our astonished teachers. We knew we were witnessing something that would become a permanent chapter in our nation’s history.
Those former classmates of mine are now college graduates, many of them teachers themselves. We have passed the 10-year-anniversary mark of 9/11, and as that time of year comes around again, teachers with decades of experience, as well as my newly graduated peers, may struggle with how to best approach this sensitive and complicated topic. It’s food for thought for everyone that the newest generation of teachers may be standing in front of sixth grade classes of their own, knowing exactly how these students would feel if they were to witness this tragedy at their age.
September 11 is truly becoming history as the next generation experiences it only through the memories, stories, and teaching of their elders. Fortunately, this also means that students today don’t have to feel the massive confusion and fear that my friends and I experienced as preteens at the time of the tragedy; the 10 intervening years since 9/11 have seen the rise of many excellent educational tools and strategies that can help educators to guide students through the many confusing and scary issues that still arise when thinking about the tragedy.
As Gloria Goodale wrote in an article last year, conventional textbooks aren’t really the right tool to teach an event that’s so recent in the cultural consciousness. As the implications of 9/11 continue to unravel, teachers have turned to technology to give their students a more flexible, relevant way to understand the many different perspectives. OLE has collected some of these technological resources in our “Remembering September 11” course material, which focuses on the personal stories behind the tragedy and putting the events in a broader historical context with interactive time lines, articles, and oral histories, as well as links to other great content on the Web. Click the links to see the content for elementary school, middle school, and high school materials.
There are also lots of other great resources out there on the Internet to help remember and teach 9/11, including a thoughtful guide from the National September 11 Memorial and Museum on how to talk to and with children about the tragedy, here.
Despite the difficulties that remembering 9/11 presents, students today have an advantage over me and my generation: they have teachers—young, and not so young—who have had 11 years to process, reflect, and come to an understanding about these events, and who can now use the incredible resources of technology to teach them about this important time in our history.