Teachers grapple with 9-11 lesson plan

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(Host) Six years after the attacks of September 11th, Vermont teachers are grappling with ways to tell students about the events.

As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, approaches to teaching about 9-11 vary not just from school to school but from teacher to teacher.

(Zind) In the first two or three years following the 2001 attacks, schools set aside time to discuss the events of September 11th.

Often there were school wide assemblies, and teachers coordinated their approaches to the subject.

(Foreman) "That’s become less common in Vermont as I know it has in many other states as well, as the memory of it has become more distant."

(Zind) Michele Foreman teaches at Middlebury Union High School. Speaking on VPR S Vermont Edition, Foreman said students today don’t have clear memories of the events of six years ago.

Amy Mellencamp is Principal at Burlington High School. She says instead of the school-wide activities of the past, decisions on how to talk to students about September 11th are left to individual teachers.

(Mellencamp) "There’s been no deliberate conversations about it. I do know one of our teachers, for instance, the day that it happened, he went out and bought thirty copies of the newspaper so he has that treasure in his classroom so he pulls those out and uses those with students. It’s sort of a decision that’s made teacher-by-teacher."

(Zind) Mellencamp believes that teaching about 9-11 will be more consistent and formalized in the future – as schools update their textbooks to include information about the attacks and their aftermath.

The way teachers discuss 9-11 has also changed. John Wright teaches social studies at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester.

Wright says in the years just after 9-11, he found that he had to be careful when talking to students about the events – because some had family members who had had close calls during the attacks.

(Wright) "A year and even two years after that, you could see that it was still a delicate topic."

(Zind) Wright says this is probably the last year he’ll ask his senior class students to describe where they were on September 11th, 2001.

Future classes will have few, if any, recollections.

For VPR news, I’m Steve Zind.

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