So I’m sitting in my classroom after school working on my lesson for tomorrow when all the sudden BAM! I’m nearly in tears, which would be totally uncool since we’re on deadline and I have a classroom of kids working right now.
All week in J-1 we’ve focused on the first amendment and we’ve looked at video clips and photos and discussed Hazelwood, Tinker, Bong Hits for Jesus. We’ve looked at Tiananmen Square and talked about student protests and communism and how horrible the massacre was and then we looked at the US and the Civil Rights protests and the kids are totally into it and so am I. These have been AWESOME days.
This class responds well to lecture with technology (NOT a POWERPOINT!), but clips to emphasize points or photos to start discussion. Tomorrow I’m going to tell them about the study released in 2005 that said:
“When told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes “too far” in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.”
And we’re going to talk about how many students believed at that time that the first amendment caused 9-11, which brings me to the BAM.
I planned on showing the Sept. 12, 2001 newspaper front pages while I lectured. I wanted the point to hit home. And then I wanted to let the screen go black and talk about the first amendment and the rights it protects once again. But when I loaded those pages onto Evernote, I suddenly found myself right back there in those days after the terrorists attacks.
I live in Wichita Falls, Texas. I didn’t know anyone personally hurt by the terrorists that day. But I watched the news non-stop from the time the planes hit the Towers. I’m a media teacher, and we had the news on already that day. I slept with the news on, waiting, hoping, praying for some kind of miracle, and then praying for peace for those directly impacted and praying for internal peace to move past the anger and hatred toward those who committed the atrocities. All the while the news played in the background until we finally couldn’t watch any more. I didn’t realize what I’d done until a few months later when I found myself waking up sure my daughter was dead. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I’d get up and go check on her to make sure she was okay even though I knew my fear was ridiculous. After a few weeks of that I broke down and told my doctor what was going on. I was so embarrassed! She told me she believed I’d given myself a form of PTSD from watching the news too much after the attacks. I took the medicine she prescribed for about six months then weened myself off. I haven’t had a problem since, really.
I don’t watch the 9-11 specials. I feel guilty about that in a way, but I can’t. I went to see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close because I didn’t realize it was a 9-11 movie. I almost walked out when the answering machine message played the first time. I’m glad I didn’t. It’s definitely one of those movies everyone should see at least once. I was shaky for a day after the movie, but I never went back to that dark place from 2001.
Today though, when I scrolled through those Sept. 12 pages, one after another after another, I had to turn off the iPad, move away from my presentation and sit here and write and pray and tell myself to focus on the good instead. On the light. On the resiliency of people. On the power of the first amendment and why people have been willing to die for it over the centuries and why people have been willing to die to TRY to get something close and why it’s essential I teach it in my classes every day. Because in 2005 1 in 3 students thought the first amendment gave too many freedoms and I think sometimes that number’s gone up and that’s scary, so scary, so absolutely terrifying because if we let that thought process continue without fighting it, the terrorists won that day.
I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow for the visual during the lecture. Maybe now that I’ve written this all out, I’ll be okay showing the front pages. Maybe I’ll use a still image. Maybe I’ll plug in my iPad and let the class watch while I talk with my back to the wall. Whatever I decide, I know what every student will have in their hands. It’s that piece of paper I handed out the first day of class. And on that paper are the words that matter most:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
— The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution