Schools should be in the “business” of creating diverse and stimulating learning environments and experiences where a child’s academic, athletic, artistic, social, and emotional skills and desires are free to flourish and thrive.
We should prepare our children to be thoughtful, caring, resilient, and responsible leaders and learners who can make meaningful and lasting contributions to our challenging and vibrant world. They need to learn how to make courageous and quality choices as they communicate and collaborate with others.
Powerful and privileged reformers like David Coleman deny the importance of thoughts and feelings because they often operate in isolation and are incapable or unwilling to consult and collaborate with others.
Reformers may hold powerful positions, but those reformers who are unable to empathize and connect with other people have a limited ability to effectively direct education reform efforts as they are more Common Core cheerleaders than education leaders.
During the summer of 2001 French filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet were in New York City documenting the daily activities of Engine 7 Ladder 1. This footage was intended to be part of a documentary that profiled the “coming of age” of a rookie fire fighter assigned to the firehouse that was located just blocks away from The World Trade Center.
As chance would have it, the Naudet brothers were riding along with the firemen on September 11th and their soon to become 9/11 documentary would provide a first-hand account of events that day including the only footage from inside the World Trade Center.
This compelling documentary honors the victims of 9/11 and pays tribute to the heroism and sacrifice of the first responders. While the film may bring back painful memories it is an important primary source that vividly captures the powerful emotions, images, and audio of that day.
I first showed the Naudet brothers 9/11 documentary in class back in 2002. My 7th and 8th grade students also listened to the Five For Fighting song, “Superman” and also watched the 9/11 Concert for New York City performance…
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me…
It’s not easy. It’s not easy to be me.
That year I encouraged my students to write poems or letters to Engine 7 Ladder 1 which were personally delivered to the firehouse on Duane Street. Here are excerpts from several student letters…
Three weeks ago my class and I watched the documentary 9/11. I had not seen the movie until then. Right then I found out that life was not going to be easy. You taught me never to give up. That may sound ordinary but it impacted my life immensely. My family noticed my change and wondered what had driven me to be more compassionate and loving. I started to spend more time with my mom and helping her.
Seeing and reading about your conduct and character has made me rethink my values. I now try to treat people with kindness and respect. Things that used to be important to me, like family and friends, are now even more important to me. I have come to realize how fortunate I am.
After seeing 9/11 I realized how lucky I was not to lose any of my family members. I’m sorry for your losses. I can’t imagine how you felt being inside the Towers, but I really appreciate all of the things you do. I don’t think I would ever have been able to do what you did that day. You have shown us all what a true hero is. A hero isn’t Superman. A hero is you.
Your movie 9/11 made me realize that firefighters do a lot for our world. I started to care more about the world and everything going on around me. I felt more secure about stepping out into the world after seeing your movie. Those are my thoughts and regards about the September 11th tragedy. I want to thank you for not running away from this tragedy. You were a great way of showing us kids that we should care about others.
The lessons that you had taught me is not to be mean or cruel to people that are different. Another lesson that you taught me is not to think of yourself, but think of other people. That is what makes you a hero to me. You guys also taught me that no matter how frustrated you are, that doesn’t mean you go out and kill people like what the terrorist did.
Back in 2002 I also introduced a 3D Memorial Project to my middle school classes. Students were required to research a significant historic event or an individual no longer living that served as a positive role model and made a difference in the lives of others. They were also challenged to select a dedication or tribute song that is played during the class presentation of their Memorial Project. Over the years numerous students have chosen to create projects for 9/11 and you can view photos of these 3D projects here.
In 2011 I introduced a media project for the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. Students were challenged to create an original tribute video blending music with the powerful images and words from that day.
The finished project was to be guided and informed by the education goals of the National September 11th Memorial and Museum which include…
Provide opportunities for the public to make meaningful and purposeful connections between the history of 9/11 and their own lives…Suggest ways to honor the memory of those killed and extend involvement with the legacy of 9/11 through acts of civic/community involvement and volunteerism.
You can find additional details, directions and resources for this project here and I also created a sample project to guide and motivate my students.
Considering the above lessons of 9/11 perhaps ed reformers would pause their plans for a moment and consider how different our children’s education would be moving forward if the specious claim in Appendix A of the Common Core…
There may one day be modes and methods of information delivery that are as efficient and powerful as text, but for now there is no contest.
were to be removed and replaced with John F. Kennedy’s statement…
The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of the nation, is close to the center of a nation’s purpose – and is a test to the quality of a nation’s civilization.
Life is not standardized and neither are children. The most important lessons in life will not be found in close readings or learned from taking tests as they are much closer to the heart.
The blacksmith and the artist
Reflect it in their art
They forge their creativity
Closer to the heart
Closer to the heart