Slice of Life in New York City, Fall 2001

 

It was the end of our second week of school. A week with no disasters, no bomb threats, no evacuations, no special assemblies, and no school cancellations. Just plain old school. My fourth-graders (equivalent to Year 5) got spelling books, started maths, and wrote in their journals. There was homework. I sidelined some kids for playing too roughly during recess. A couple of girls started a petition because they didn’t like the way I’d arranged the desks. Plain old school, but in a brand new world.

Ten days earlier had been our first day of school. At 8am I had opened my classroom door to a bunch of energetic nine-year-olds who quickly discovered the chocolate ladybugs I’d placed on each of their desks for good luck. By mid-morning, I’d led a discussion on classroom rules, helped them stow away school supplies, and taken them on a tour to see where the all-important bathrooms and water fountains were.

Then we heard about the attack on the World Trade Center. School resumed two days later. The freshness and excitement of that first day seemed long gone; now we had to help pupils whose world, like ours, had been changed forever. We listened to the advice of our school psychologists and talked together about how we felt and how we would work with the children.

Once again I opened my classroom door and once again my students came in. After checking that their ladybugs were still on their desks, they settled on the rug for our morning meeting. We would begin with an assembly on the tragedy, I told them. After that, they could decide whether they wanted to write, do art, or respond further to it. Or not, if they’d had enough.

From “Normal Service Will Be Resumed,” an article I wrote for the British Times Educational Supplement weeks after 9/11.

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