Warren G. Phillips Brain-based teaching strategies
September 11, 2001 was a beautiful, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky late summer day in Plymouth, MA. (“America’s Home Town”).
I’ll never forget the day of 9-11, the hardest day of my teaching career. I was sitting at my desk, getting ready for students to return to science class when at 8:55 the phone rang and the secretary advised me to turn on the TV – a plane had crashed into a building in New York City. Students had been at gym class, and returned to my class with no knowledge of the terrorist attack. It became my responsibility to tell them about the attack, and we watched live TV as the second tower collapsed. A student asked if I thought there were people in the building. I had to answer honestly. Yes, there were probably many people in the building and around the grounds. Graphic images showed what appeared to be bodies jumping from the broken windows. Then a second airplane crashes into the South Tower as we watched live TV. I tried to reassure them that WE were safe. I tried to reassure them that our first responders would be there to help. I knew in my heart that there were probably thousands of people in those buildings, and there were poisonous gases emanating from the buildings and settling on the surrounding buildings. Many students talked about knowing people who live in New York. It was devastating.
Meanwhile, our principal had asked us to watch TV for only an hour, then return to our teaching. As an adult, I wanted to keep watching and keep updated on the news. As a teacher, I knew in my heart that my middle school students needed to return to some sort of “normalcy”. Classroom teachers do such an important job. Safety is just one of them. Teachers prepare students by comforting, reassuring, and, yes, carrying on with the most important task of educating our youth to become productive, caring, responsible members of this society.
I taught five more classes that day, that hardest day of my teaching career. We learned science concepts. We did demos and a hands-on lab. I tried to present the lesson in a happy, warm environment. I told students how important it was that we carry on with our lessons. This country needed them. They are the future.