3 Lessons I Learned From My Grade 3 Students on 09/11

Years later, we can use the remembrance of September 11 to teach our children about kindness, humanity, and how to be caring citizens of a global community.September 11, 2001, is a day that will never be forgotten. As the 16th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center approaches, what can we teach our children when we discuss the somber events of that day?

I remember very vividly where I was on September 11, 2001. I was teaching a 3rd grade class, and my husband was deployed. All of a sudden, life turned upside down, as I didn’t know what was going to happen to my husband or my country.

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Facing those children to let them know what had happened was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I did not know what to tell them, really, but in the days that followed, they certainly told me a lot. To this day, their lessons resonate with me, and I believe are ones that our children need to know as well.

1.There is so much good in this world.

While it is easy to look around and see so much that makes our heart hurt, watching those children bring in money from their piggy banks to help other kids, or sing songs that celebrated our country’s pride while recognizing we are one country of a global community made my heart soar. Yes, there’s death and destruction in the world still today, but more, like Mr. Rogers said — there are helpers everywhere, united in helping humanity, and worth looking for and celebrating.

2. Broken hearts don’t have to stay broken.

No, when loved ones are lost, hearts are never the same. As I was teaching in a military community, 9/11 affected many of us, and many lost family members. I saw resilience and strength in so many children and their families. It was inspiring. And, I saw that they used their pain and grief from loss for good in the way of helping others and relating to those who were in need of a listening ear. Pain and tragedy are never things we’d ask for, but those children taught me that there is power in not wasting that pain.

3. We are citizens of a global community.

One of the most powerful things a student that year told me has never left my memory. When some of my class was angry and bitter, one quiet student softly said, “But we have to remember to only be angry at the people who did this.” What she meant was that the acts of a few extremists should not define how looked at an entire group, culture, race, religion, what-have-you. In her very mature little voice, she reminded me that to move forward, as a country and as humans, we have to look at how we fit in this world, and how we can all work together for better tomorrows for everyone.

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September 11 is a day we can use to talk with our children about how they can make a difference in the world — how love can win every time, and how they can facilitate that. That’s what I’ll be sharing with my son, that day and every day.

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