How to teach about Sept. 11

My colleagues and I are working on a story about how Bay Area teachers plan to cover the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. So tell us: What aspects of the event and its ongoing aftermath will — or should — social studies teachers address in their classrooms?

Given the religious and ethnic diversity of California’s classrooms, I wonder how teachers will approach such sensitive topics as the role of religion and international terrorism, if at all, and generally what they will consider as they put together their lesson plans.

How do you make an event — one that’s still so fresh in the minds of many adults — relevant to children who were toddlers or small children when the World Trade Centers collapsed? How much emphasis and time, if any, to you plan to devote to this topic?

The Education Writers Association posted this link to a blog post with curriculum for teachers. Are there other resources you’d recommend?

I’m looking for teachers, parents and students to interview and, possibly, for lessons to observe. If you’re interested — Don’t be shy! — or know someone who might be, send me an email with your contact information so we can talk at greater length about how you and your colleagues plan to approach this important moment in our world’s history.

I encourage you to post your thoughts and ideas here. Want to write a piece for The Education Report about the subject? Please submit it to kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com. Just remember to include your basic information (name, school, grade, subject, etc.) and, if possible, a photo of yourself. I look forward to hearing from you.


A teachable moment

discussion at the Oakland Military Institute. Photo by Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group

Social studies classrooms were abuzz today with debate and analysis of Osama bin Laden’s death. (See Tribune story here.)

Some teachers asked students to compare media coverage of the development. Others supplied basic facts about the raid and the broader conflict with terrorist groups such as al-Qaida. They touched on a wide range of issues, among them: patriotism, war, sovereignty, the celebration of death, politics, justice and vengeance.

Brian Rodriguez, an AP history teacher at Encinal High School in Alameda, wrote this to me, in an email: Continue Reading


Twenty-five years after the Challenger disaster

the Space Shuttle Challenger, Jan. 28, 1986. AP file photo by Bruce Weaver

I was in second grade when the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated off the Florida Coast on Jan. 28, 1986. My teacher could barely get the words out. She wheeled in a television set, turned on the news, and we watched that now-iconic clip, which was played over and over for days.

In the mid-1980s — at least, before that day — if you asked a little kid at my school or on my block about his or her career aspirations, there was a good chance you’d hear they wanted to be an astronaut. I wonder if the Challenger changed that. It certainly complicated my notions of space travel.

Pete Cuddyre, a retired Oakland principal, was at Joaquin Miller Elementary School at the time. He said his faculty saw the event as a teachable moment.

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Student historians from East Oakland delve into role of media in the U.S.-Mexico War

UPDATE: The team took first place in one of the “senior group exhibit” categories.

Fatima Ghatala, a teacher at East Oakland School of the Arts (Castlemont), tells us about her AP United States history students’ diligent preparation for tomorrow’s National History Day competition. EOSA is the only school representing OUSD in the contest.

EOSA students, courtesy of Fatima Ghatala

“Who would like to present their project at the county-wide National History Day competition on March 20th?” I asked. The group members excitedly looked at each other to confirm, and enthusiastically raised their hands to volunteer. The class had already spent weeks working on research topics, and this particular group of students were researching the United States-Mexico War. They were first inspired to learn more about the war because of the impact the current U.S.-Mexico border has on their communities.

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Which of your teachers inspired you the most?

How do teachers inspire powerful learning? A new Web site, Rethink Learning Now, is trying to stimulate debate about this question. It is seeking brief descriptions of effective and influential teachers. Here is my submission. I hope some of you will submit your experiences also and copy your statements here on Katy’s site. -Steven

The teacher who influenced me the most was Josiah Sheilds, my eighth grade American History teacher, whose class I entered 50 years ago this month.

It was not his lectures that I remember, nor his homework assignments or tests. No, what fascinated me were the trials of historical figures he conducted in his class.

Each month students charged and tried an important and controversial person of the time period being studied. Students took the roles of the accused, witnesses, lawyers, and jurors. The student lawyers had the largest roles, researching the time period, preparing opening and closing statements, recruiting and prepping witnesses, and cross-examining the opposition witnesses. Continue Reading