Teach, Learn and Understand

I dreaded yesterday.

So why did I agree to do something different this year?  I wanted to do something. I didn’t want to spend the day crying. I just dreaded yesterday for weeks and thought if I in fact did something different, I wouldn’t feel the sadness. Well, those of us who “get it,” know that never works because it creeps up on you with the tiniest of sounds, with a certain smell, a song, a flag, a beautiful blue sky.

I was able to walk to the school I was going to be teaching 9/11 to  two 8th grade Social Studies class. I walked slowly going over in my mind how I would Introduce myself, what would I say to capture their attention.Before I knew it I only had 10 minutes to get there and I wasn’t even close to the school.  How did that happen??

I finally made it and of course that anguish was creeping up. I wanted to be there at least a half hour early, didn’t happen. I wanted to speak with the contact person to get a feel for the class. That didn’t happen. I wanted to speak to the teacher to find out which of the students may have a connection to 9/11, you guessed it; it didn’t happen. I thought I’d have to get myself together before I started but as soon as the teacher saw me, she brought me right in, so of course, that didn’t happen either.

A lot of “Not Happenings” occurred before I even had a chance to do my introduction. Now what?

The children were attentive, respectful and inquisitive. I couldn’t believe how everything flowed. But then I had to tell a part of my story and stop so that I continue with the time line and then I could finish my story at the end. That was the hard part. Stop? My throat was closing up and I could feel the tears coming. Even though I did stop to continue with the time line, my mind kept going over every single step I took that day, 14 years ago.

Taking a deep breath, I continued, now looking directly into their faces. They went from leaning back in the beginning to sitting forward with their hands under their chin. They were looking from me to the smart board. I asked them if they didn’t feel comfortable raising their hands to ask questions, they could write them on a piece of paper, no names and they could hand it to their teacher.  They began to write in droves.   What did I get myself into?

The questions surprised me. “We didn’t do anything, so why did they come to us and do this?” Before I could respond, another student would raise her hand and ask if she could answer that. I said “give it a try.” We really aren’t supposed to do that but I needed to know if the class or at least part of the class was understand why I was teaching.    She responded,”Yes, they did attack us. They weren’t blaming each of the people who were killed, Ms. Sonia said they attacked America and those people represented America, and Ms. A, is it right that we get angry at them for this.”
My only response to that was, just like violence begets violence so does hatred and anger.
WOWZA…    They were getting it and the Q&A became a discussion with students that weren’t even born or just tiny babies when this happened. They wanted to learn, to understand, they wanted to know why they shouldn’t be angry.

And while I was very happy that the lesson went well, I was overcome with a new sadness.

Our 9/11 is now theirs.

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