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I headed to the District office for the usual Tuesday morning Leadership meeting. I had just heard about the first Tower attack. Like most people across the country, I was in shock.
A television newscast in the board room was replaying the first plane’s assault. A few minutes after my arrival, the Superintendent entered and asked us all to go back to our campuses immediately and bring some semblance of calmness and order to our school community.
At my office, I summoned the counselor and together we sketched out a plan for communicating with and consoling the staff, students and parents. TVs were ordered turned off. Teachers and I spoke only of what we knew and avoided speculation. Parents fearful of other attacks in the country were reassured. Above all, I made sure that I was in every classroom, in the cafeteria and outside at release time.
Students at every age were frightened. But it was the children who made the biggest difference overall during those first few days.
On Friday, the President ordered a moment of silence at noon across the country to honor those who had been killed in the 9/11 tragedy. This was to take place, of course, at the peak of cafeteria serving time with over 200 adolescents in the building. I told the aides that we would most definitely stop for a moment of respect and was rebuked: “You will never get all of these kids quiet,” they said. “Watch,” I replied.
At noon, I stood on the stage, took the microphone in my hand and announced the President’s proclamation. Instantly the room fell silent. I had goose bumps on my arms and a lump in my throat. I thanked the kids when the minute had passed and made a statement about how fortunate we all were to be living in the U.S. The goose bumps returned as the room resounded in applause.
At dismissal time that day, we conducted a peaceful student march. Lining both sides of the main sidewalk to the parking lot were NJHS members holding American flags. One class after another walked together, some holding hands, some linked together at the elbows. Some held banners. Others sang patriotic songs. As they passed each American flag and finally into the arms of a family member, the goose bumps resurfaced. All around me were parents crying and cheering.
I truly believe in the healing power of children. They put things in perspective during that painful week and let the adults see that America still stands strong. They made me proud to be an educator as well.
So many times in my career, my students have given me strength. Often when the day has started off wrong or I’m feeling down and out, they have helped to take my mind in another, more positive direction.
They have what we, the adults in their lives, need to make sure we have daily in large amounts—the ability to “heal” – with an empathetic heart and a great sense of humor. Equipped in this manner, we can lead our students through any storm.
Copyright, Tim Ramsey.
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