Today I reluctantly taught my class of fourth graders about 9-11. I was reluctant because I did not know if they would be mature enough to show respect for the content and I did not want to seem like I had an agenda. I also worried that I would be repeating something that they had already heard over and over throughout their short lives.
To my relief, they were enthralled and respectful. To my surprise, when I told them about how I watched the day unfold on September 11, 2001, I got some serious goosebumps. It was so strange to stand in front of 29 people that knew so little about what happened. Most of them were not even born yet. Explaining what the day was like for me made me remember how much fear I felt that day. I never realized how it affected me, even though I heard over and over on the news that it changed my generation.
I tried to keep the content pretty mild and absent of any political undertones one direction or the other. We read what it was like for a student that went to school down the street from the WTC and watched a short kid-friendly video about the sequence of events that day. After our discussion and free-write, the kids decorated a small quilt square in memory of what happened.
One student, a boy that speaks English as a second language and sometimes has trouble expressing himself, called me over as he was working. He was so excited to tell me what September 11 had taught him.
He said that it taught him to enjoy life because you never know what will happen.
Apparently teaching these kids about September 11 was more worthwhile than I expected.