By Cindy Finch
Another September 11th is here, and my mind turns to the events of 13 years ago. I had just begun my position as Director of the school, and my youngest child (who is an adult now) was still a student here.
We will do nothing to commemorate this national tragedy today at The Children’s School—the children we teach today were not born in 2001 and the many of the parents we work with were living very different lives then than they are now.
However, this day is a day of remembrance for me and for the teachers at the school. I decided to share the September 2001 TCS Times article reflecting on 9-11-01 at The Children’s School–in honor of children and families who have, who do, and who will live with this important part of our personal and national history.
I have been asked often over the past two weeks how children in the school have reacted to the terrorism in New York and Washington. My answer to parents in the school and to friends in the community has been the same: children at TCS have reacted in many ways, as we would expect in a group of young children.
Some children have talked about the events with teachers or groups of children. Other children incorporated their impressions of the crashing airplanes and buildings into play. A few children have cried more easily or acted out more quickly, although there are many reasons in children’s lives why this may happen on occasion. Some children have moved through school days without an obvious response.
Many teachers met with me on the morning of the terrorist events and discussed an appropriate, immediate response for classrooms. We decided that having parents discuss their own responses away from classrooms was a priority, so we encouraged adult conversations in the coffee room or office. We decided that assuring children of their safety at school was important (putting aside our own doubts about our personal safety and our family’s safety in response to events that were bizarre and undefined at that point). And finally, we stayed sensitive to children as they arrived.
It became immediately clear that children and parents came into the school with very different levels of information. A few children talked individually with teachers. Morning meetings began and the events that were unfolding as a huge tragedy outside the school were not among the topics of conversation in the classroom. As the day progressed and I witnessed the “ordinary” feel of the classrooms, I became increasingly convinced that school was a perfect place for children that day. Children were away from TVs and the news of the world that day. Although events were happening that will result in a very different world for these children, TCS was a place where childhood could continue during time of turmoil outside our walls. Over the years of teaching young children, I have often reflected on the value of the classroom as a child’s world and the refuge that world provides for children during times of stress. I was reminded again of how good classrooms can provide continuity for children during transitions.
Although the school is prepared to respond to children’s concerns, parents are in a position to inform. Several parents told me that, although their children were unaware of what was happening on the TV, they told them in their own words and in their own time about the tragedy. For some parents, they did this knowing that children sense tension from adults and may have been wondering what was happening. For others, it was knowing that children would hear from other children and spoke first from a desire to prepare children for inevitable information. In my home, my older children were watching the news and I decided that was o.k. But I stayed close by and we talked about that day and how seeing those events felt. For other families, there is a strong urge to protect children from very much information.
There are many ways to talk with children about sensitive issues. Since you know your children best and know what you value for your children, we support you in your choices about sharing information and want to provide resources when we have them. Over the past few weeks we have received a number of articles, papers, or information sheets on talking with children about violence in general and the events of September 11, specifically. I have left three copies of this information in the coffee room. We hope you find these resources of support to you in guiding your children through these confusing world events.