Thursday, September 13, 2001

Attacks are topic No. 1 in classrooms

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Two weeks ago, teacher Mick Munn asked his eighth-graders to list the most historic event in their lifetime.

        “A lot of kids had trouble answering that,” said Mr. Munn, who teaches history at Delhi Middle School. “A few mentioned the Oklahoma City bombing, but they decided the really big historical thing that has an impact on all of our lives hadn't happened.”

[photo] At Scott High School, junior Chad Rehmet raises his hand to speak while Shay Derickson, a senior, listens.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        All that changed this week when terrorists committed the worst attack in U.S. history.

        “We talked about this being the event of their generation,” said Mr. Munn, who devoted half of each class Wednesday to the attacks. “I saw a lot of heads nodding. Maybe this is it.”

        The initial shock turned to probing questions from Tristate students:

        • What did we do to deserve this?

        • Who is Osama bin Laden, and if he's responsible, why can't we catch him?

        • What can we do to help?

        • Is this World War III?

        • Will I be drafted?

        Tuesday was frightening, but the mood was different Wednesday, said Gayle Pope, a junior and senior high science teacher at St. Bernard-Elmwood Place.

[photo] At Liberty Junior School, Erika Mundy eats lunch Wednesday while overseeing donations to the Red Cross.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        “There's a lot of anger in these students and lot of confusion and helplessness. Why can't we do something? Of course, there's speculation about Osama bin Laden. They're getting an education about him,” Mrs. Pope said.

        “To turn off your TVs and go about business is ludicrous. It's important to address this situation and let the kids talk.”

        At John P. Parker School in Madisonville, Principal Jerry Moore didn't let his K-8 students watch television Tuesday — concerned they would become emotionally distraught watching chilling live footage. At the end of the day, he announced a major event had occurred in this country, and they should talk to their parents.

        “It was a horrific event, and we wanted parents to have an opportunity to be the first to help their children understand what went on,” he said.

        On Wednesday, he gave students a summary of the event over the loudspeaker, and homeroom teachers answered questions. Students in fourth through eighth grades read the transcript of President Bush's speech in social studies classes.

        “We want to educate them, of course,” Mr. Moore said. “We want them to understand what happened. We will continue to discuss it as needed.”

        Many elementary schools kept the televisions off Tuesday and tried to shield students from what was happening.

[photo] Scott High teacher Dana Davis, who conducts classes in history and psychology, is using this week's shocking events as springboards for discussion.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        “We thought it was best to let the parents deal with it in their own way when they got home,” said Neena Ambrose, a counselor at Burlington Elementary in Boone County.

        On Wednesday, Burlington had three ministers on standby, in case students needed counseling, but they weren't called in.

        “With the age level we've got here, it really hasn't hit them yet,” Ms. Ambrose said. “They can't fathom it.”

        Meanwhile, many high schools brought the news into the classroom and built lessons around it.

        Dana Davis threw out her lesson plans for her history and psychology classes at Scott High School in Taylor Mill and worked discussions and assignments around the national tragedy.

        “This is such a teachable moment,” she said. “It's something that everybody in the class was into and had something to say.”

        From increased airport security to slowed mail, Ms. Davis talked with her students about how the attack will affect them and the entire nation. Their assignment was to write a letter to the editor expressing their feelings about the attack.

        The biggest concerns were from Ms. Davis' 17- and 18-year-old male students, who feared they would be drafted if the country went to war.

        A second worry was rising gas prices.

        “These are teen-agers,” Ms. Davis said. “They don't have gas money anyway.”

        Eighth-grade students in Dee Tome and Shawn Jones' social studies class at Liberty Junior School in Liberty Township said they felt better after listening to Mr. Bush's speech.

        “The president's speech was great,” said Brad Engel, 14. ""They (terrorists) thought they'd drive us to chaos and instead of chaos we got together and donated blood.”

        But in a show of hands, not one of the 24 students wanted to be in the president's position as the country works through the crisis.

        Lori Hayes and Sue Kiesewetter contributed to this report.

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