They anticipate interesting conversations, but acknowledge that it is a sensitive subject—and that’s why it’s always a challenge to decide how to teach Sept. 11 to high school and middle school students.
“Especially this year because it will be so big in the news, it’s really important to discuss Sept. 11 so the kids have a grasp of the reality of it,” said William Ferry, the seventh through 12th grade social studies curriculum supervisor for the . “I think the most important thing is getting across to the students that this is an event we will never, and should never, forget.”
“It’s important to analyze the lessons that were learned,” he added.
Ferry said it is often hard to determine how to teach the events of Sept. 11 to students, particularly because it falls right at the beginning of the school year, so the curriculum has not quite caught up to that point yet. Classes normally start farther back in history.
“It kind of follows an odd time, because it’s at the beginning of the school year,” he said. “Most teachers will do something regarding it each year, whether asking kids about their memories of it, if they have any. And usually teachers will talk about their experiences with 9/11.”
In terms of the curriculum, Ferry said, usually the United States History 2 classes teach up to the present, so they do tend to cover the events of Sept. 11, particularly for the juniors, toward the end of the school year.
“It is a challenge, but one thing most teachers do, and we encourage them to do, is to find out what the students know first and then they can gage what they should do,” he said. “We ask them to, the night before, talk to their parents and family members about their recollections of the day.”
Ferry said there are resources available for teachers concerning the Holocaust and other issues of genocide, which are helpful in terms of figuring out how to teach Sept. 11.
“There are amazing lessons geared toward different grade levels, and I encourage teachers to access those and pick ones that are appropriate with the kids,” he said.
Ferry said the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education has developed a curriculum focusing on terrorism, security and remembrance. From there, he said, the teachers can develop their own lessons with the information as a guide.
Depending on what is most appropriate for each grade level, Ferry said, teachers can discuss what students know about Sept. 11, why it’s important that Americans recognize living memorials of the tragedy and what kinds of hope and heroism has come out of it.
“In addition to discussions, teachers might decide to have their students interview a family member for memories of the events of 9/11,” he said. “Ultimately, our goal is to forever honor those lost in the tragedy, while learning how Americans, as a result, have taken action to make the world a better, safer place.”
Prior to taking on the supervisor position five years ago, Ferry said, he taught history, and he always knew he had to do something to discuss 9/11 with his students, despite understanding that it is a difficult subject.
“In the back of my mind, I knew I had to be sensitive because there could be kids in the class who had a relative or knew someone who was greatly impacted or died,” he said. “That was always in the back of my mind, so I would always say to the kids that I understand this is sensitive material, and if they feel uncomfortable, I have no problem with them stepping outside.”
But by working with the students, and teaching them about the event Ferry said, he can help dispel any myths or factual inaccuracies they may have heard over the years.
This year, Ferry said, he anticipates there will be some interesting discussions.
“I find that with a topic like this, many people will want to talk about it, and I anticipate there will be some interesting conversations,” he said. “It is a major event happening in their lifetime that’s impacting them, and even more so being from New Jersey.”
By it’s very nature, Ferry said, teaching Sept. 11 will become more and more about recapping the facts because as the years go by, there will eventually be students studying it who didn’t actually live through it. But, he said, he hopes the teachers can provide more first-hand accounts.
“I would hope that from that, there would still be a sense of this being real, rather than just studying something like World War I [from before any of us were born],” he said.
But, Ferry said, this historical event is particularly different because it is about America itself being attacked.
“Even when we studied Pearl Harbor, it was about us being attacked here, and I think when I taught it, the kids were intrigued because it’s something different than traveling abroad and fighting somewhere else,” he said.
Ferry said the classes will definitely include discussions of how 9/11 has changed the country as a whole.
“We will look at some of the ramifications that are part of our daily lives,” he said. “But we have to be more creative in terms of how we observe.”
*Leading up to Sept. 11, Bridgewater Patch will examine 9/11's impact on the community and how lives have changed, and reflect on those who died in the attacks 10 years ago.
Wednesday—Former New York City firefighter, and Bridgewater resident, Jim Murray shows pictures he took on 9/11.
Thursday—The Martinsville Volunteer Fire Co. talks about it brought water to rescue dogs at ground zero.
Friday—The police department discusses how its training has changed since Sept. 11.
Saturday—County residents speak about how Sept. 11 changed their lives.
Sunday—We cover local and county Sept. 11 memorials.
In case you missed it:
Thursday—We looked at a that we thought was representative of the feelings of Americans today.
Friday—We remembered those residents who died in the attacks.
Saturday—We presented photos of the Twin Towers taken by residents.
Sunday—Former Bridgewater resident John Kazan talked about what it was like in New York City on Sept. 11.
Monday— Bridgewater-Raritan High School seniors spoke about what they remember of Sept. 11, when they were only in second grade.