A Teacher Remembers 9/11

By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Ramon Preciado (Public Domain)

Written on September 11, 2011

Ten years ago today I learned about kids. Not that I didn’t know anything about them before. But I learned a great deal in one day because of the horror that took the U.S.

I was teaching at a high school – something I did for about 6 months – and doing a fine poor job of it. I had taught almost ten years of college math and was struggling with the concept of discipline and lecture – simultaneously.

The downright creativity of those guys was amazing – they could come up with the most ingenious ways of conning me into stuff. They were brilliant!

We were in Algebra when I read the news.

The email from the principal came through with an exclamation mark denoting high priority. I didn’t pay much attention to those flags because I didn’t have a whole lot of respect for her – she treated children and teachers alike, as if we were 2nd class citizens to be disciplined for rules that seemed to have no basis.

So my class went clueless for the hour. It wasn’t until the next class arrived that I learned something was up.

I headed back to the email – perhaps this time there was a wolf.

Sure enough, the super creepy email was there. Hard to wrap my brain around. Especially since I had never been to New York and hadn’t a clue what the World Trade Center Twin Towers were.

I went to the library during my off period and watched the subsequent disasters unfold.

And I watched the students’ reactions.

When I first started teaching there, I was very cautious in listening to other teachers who labeled certain kids as “bad.” In fact, I started to favor the students that had earned that moniker. How can you be “bad” at 14? Maybe on your way to bad, but certainly not there yet!

And sure enough, one of my favorite students (with a “very bad” label) was the most devastated by the tragedy. “Why?” he asked with tears in his eyes. “Why would anyone do that? I just don’t understand.”

No doubt the “good” kids who blew it off and make terribly inappropriate jokes did so out of personal protection.

It was strange to see the various reactions of all the different kids. And many of them were not what I would’ve expected.

There are many things I’ll never forget.

Indeed this was a moment, a day, and ten years that I’ll never forget. And most importantly, I’ll also not forget how children take things.

Kids are people too. And they aren’t bad. None of them.

If you’re a teacher, know this. If you’re a parent, remember this.

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