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The morning of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I logged in to Facebook as I do most weekend mornings to see the status updates of 200 or so acquaintances. Many had posted links to news articles and patriotic photos or comments about their memory of that day in 2001. I was not prepared, however, to read a blatantly xenophobic post by someone I had gone to high school with. He called for the extermination of Islam and the strategic bombing of all countries in the Middle East.
Teaching is a tough profession. We know it. It comes with a lot of responsibilities and challenges. Nevertheless, teaching is a very rewarding life path. Perhaps equally as tough is teaching teachers to be culturally competent. For the last six months, I’ve led a book study at my school on Gary Howard’s We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know, which looks at cultural competency programs.
When my daughter pulls hard on the heavy glass doors of the Martin Luther King Jr. Laboratory School and races upstairs into her fifth-grade classroom, she is living my dream.
We are happy to announce the selection of the 2011 Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board. We received more than 500 applications from outstanding multicultural educators across the country. We selected teachers from each grade category. It was extremely difficult to select just a few teachers from such a remarkable pool of applicants. Please join us in congratulating this year’s advisory board members.
After reading a Teaching Tolerance Facebook post asking how we would be marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I started to think about how I would address this in my classroom. My new group of sixth-graders will be 10 and 11 years old. What they know about these events will not be from their memories but from what they have learned from their parents and teachers. And given the proximity of our school district to New York City, it is quite possible that I will have students who lost a family member on that day. However I decide to approach it in the classroom, it isn’t going to be easy.
I had coffee with a colleague recently and we discussed plans for lessons on Sept. 11. Robin outlined her discussion and writing plan based on George Orwell’s 1984—specifically on the “Two Minutes’ Hate” he describes.
The month of Ramadan comes upon my classroom slowly. The non-Muslim students don’t notice the changes at first, but soon the little things start creeping in. They see that the classes are smaller, because more students are staying home. Or they might notice that the Muslim students are a little more tired than usual, or that when offered food, they politely put up their hand and say, “No food for me, I am fasting.”
This is when the questions start.
This week as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, I plan to gather my third-, fourth- and fifth-graders around me. I will tell them, "Our country is beautiful place."
I’ll keep this in mind as I think of the moments when we were clearly afraid.