"Where were you when President Reagan was shot?""Where were you when The Challenger exploded?"
"Where were you when you first heard about Columbine?"
"Where were you on 9-11?"
The answer to all of these questions is the same. I was at school. Sometimes I was the student. Other times I was the teacher. But some of the biggest events in American history in the past 45 years have happened while I was surrounded by children.
When I was in third grade, President Ronald Reagan was shot. I remember the teachers scurrying around talking about something that we all knew was serious. They finally told us what was going on and we were all surprised. We also were comforted by our teachers that everything was going to be fine and we carried on about our day as if the world would go on. It did!
When I was in 8th grade, we watched The Challenger explode in our classrooms. Live. One of our teachers, Mrs. Elliott, had applied to be on The Challenger. She made it pretty far in the process so when we all saw the tragedy unfold, we all knew how Mrs. Elliott must have felt. It was so sad and I remember tears from lots of adults that day. We also were comforted by our teachers and we knew everything was going to be just fine. It was!
Columbine and 9-11 were events that happened when I was teaching. I had to be the comforter and make sure that students knew that everything was going to be just fine. Remembering what my teachers did was so helpful to me during those times. I just remembered how they made us feel. We felt safe and secure. We as teachers have to decide how much information is appropriate, how much the students want to discuss the events, and how much we share before they get out into the big world outside the school. I was actually at the park with my sixth graders on September 11th, 2001. A man walking in the park told the teachers what was happening. The sixth grade teachers discussed the situation with the kids as little as possible but answered the questions that we could. Of course we didn't know much more than they did, but we were their comfort in that time of uncertainty and tragedy. All the teachers wanted the kids to know that everything would be just fine. It was!
Luckily, I get to work with the younger kids now, who don't have phones at school and don't have access to social media all day long. If something bad happens in the world, I can protect them from hearing about the bad things and keep them feeling safe and secure throughout the day. Staying a step ahead of them is getting harder and harder....so far I am!