Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Well, That Was Harder Than I Thought

For the past two years, I've written some form of dedication post for September 11th.  I didn't, yesterday, because - well, I've said before what I needed to say about it.  For the first time since starting my blog, I just wanted to write a "normal" post on September 11th... not because I don't think it's important to remember the day or because I want to pretend that I've forgotten about it.  Just because at some point, I decided I was ready to remember in my own way without replaying the same message each year.

In 2010, I was in the early stages of my student teaching internship.  I honestly don't remember what it was like being in a classroom that day.  I posted about working out after school.  I posted about being involved in a Biggest Loser competition.  I then posted my remembrance to the day, and sent out my thoughts and condolences to anyone that had lost a loved one.  But, there's not a word about how the day was handled in a school environment.

In 2011, the ten year anniversary, I compared my life to that tragic day to how it was ten years later.  I was working in a school, but there's not a single mention of what it was like being around children or in a classroom.  And, again, I don't remember what it was like in the school on that day.  I just don't remember that part of my life.

But, it I know I won't forget my day in the classroom yesterday.

That's because I am now the teacher.  It is now my job to teach the students in my class the importance and significance of the historical event.  It's my job to explain the feelings and reasons behind why our country was attacked.  It's my job to answer questions, and help 9 and 10 year olds understand what happened on that day and the many days that followed.

I can tell you that I was terrified about having to explain the events.  It was hard for me to fathom that the faces that looked to me for answers weren't even on this planet on that day.  In their innocent little minds, it's hard for them to understand that the events are still very fresh in our minds and our hearts.  That was apparent when the first question I received was "Were you alive when the planes crashed, Ms. Hill?"

Eleven years to kids that have only been alive for nine could very well be fifty years as far as they're concerned.

I had already made the decision before I ever stepped in to my room yesterday morning that I would NOT show the actual footage from that day.  Even though I knew that many teachers used different versions or videos that had been made specifically for kids that showed the footage.  I just couldn't.  For the same reason I stay away from my TV on September 11th.  Because I honestly don't want to remember the feelings I had on that day.  I don't want to be reminded of the panic, the sadness of seeing those innocent people lose their lives, or the devastation that ripped through my heart as I began to realize that our country was being attacked.

Instead, I found a really good video made by BrainPop - which is one of my most favorite educational video websites.  It's a cartoon version - and the video did a FANTASTIC job of explaining the events from the day, explaining Al Qaeda, and explaining the aftermath.  But, it was even hard for me to watch that.

After the video, I just decided to have a Q & A session with the kiddos.  They had lots of questions, they were curious, and it was my job to teach the best way I could.

I was very surprised at how much the kids knew, how much they'd heard, and how much they wanted to know about what I was doing when the day happened.  It was a good discussion.  Not just educational, but emotional.  Once they realized how emotionally involved I was and how recent the events still are in my mind, it began to mean a lot more to them.

It blows my mind how emotional September 11th continues to be for me each year.  I didn't know anyone, personally, that were on the planes or in the towers.  I don't have any loved ones that were called away to war after the dust settled.  Nothing about that day affected me directly.  Except it did.  In ways I just can't put in to words.

Once the lesson was over, the kids went back to being their normal, cheerful selves.  I don't expect or want anything different.  It's important for our children to understand the significance of September 11th - just like it's important for them to learn about World War I, World War II, the holocaust, etc.  They need to know what happened, but they don't need to feel the feelings that we do - the people that were here and remember that day.

I don't know if it will get easier as each year goes by.  I hope so.  But, what I do know is that it's very apparent I will always be affected on an emotional level because I was here on this earth.  I remember.  And I will never forget.



  1. Sounds like you did a great job with your class, Joanna. I can imagine how intense it would be to have to discuss 9/11 with a classroom of children.

    I live right outside of NYC so my community was hit hard by 9/11. Years pass and it doesn't get any easier.

    1. Thanks, Jenn! It was pretty intense, but they handled it like champs. I just couldn't fathom being so close - if I tackle it with some level of difficulty after living in Texas at the time.. I couldn't imagine what it would be like if I lived where you do.

  2. Joanna, it's interesting to hear how you handled that day in the classroom. That video sounds amazing, and I agree with you about it being hard to talk about. I actually read an article I had written to them, and then we talked about briefly. Many of them had heard about it, and I talked about as another part of history. The article I read to them was about teaching a bunch of kids, just like them.

    1. The video came from an amazing site. You should check it out for your class!! It's You have to subscribe and pay for all of the content, but they also offer a lot of free videos and lesson plans!


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