As we approach the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, it may escape some teachers that many of their students know very little about the event. How many K-12 students today actually watched those horrible images on the television that seemed more like a bad action adventure movie? How many watched as the images played over and over and over?
How can teachers address this in the classroom?
For lower grades where students did not experience the event when it happened, teachers can focus on the event itself, carefully. While an important event, it's still a horrible event to describe in detail to a kindergartner. Be sensitive to the age of the children. Here in Colorado, it may be rare that a student has been directly impacted by the event, but also be sensitive to the fact that some students may have lost family members. Again, children below the age of about fourteen probably would not have known relatives killed in the event, but they may still know about those stories.
For high school students, it's possible that they remember the events and some of the images. For some it may still be painful. For others, they may be ready to discuss political issues surrounding the event and the tragedy that the country experienced.
Some specific topics that a teacher or parent could discuss in addition to the facts of the event are:
- The lingering health effects in the area
- Political division within the U.S. as well as outside of the country that continues because of 9/11
- The change in security policy, rise of NSA and TSA and other internal reactions to the attack
- Emotional issues still felt by those directly affected by the attack
- The status and effectiveness of the "war on terrorism"
Teachers cannot ignore such an important event in U.S. history. Perhaps this year, high school students, especially, can begin to reflect on what has happened in the past eleven years and more importantly where our country is going.