Thursday, September 5, 2013
I've written in previous posts about the difficulty of being an educator and teaching young adolescents about 9/11. What facts do I want to share with them? What can we learn from that day. I have compared 9/11 to Pearl Harbor for the generation of my parents. I was born in 1956 so my knowledge of December 7, 1941 were from my teachers and my parents. I don't know if it is my first memory, but I remember watching President Roosevelt address Congress on December 8th and those famous words...."Yesterday, December 7th-a day that will live in infamy...." What is your memory of 9/11? Is it that visual of an aide telling President Bush of what had just transpired while he sat in a Florida elementary school? Is it the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center? Is it something much more personal? Last night I found myself channel surfing and found a program titled The Flag. It was about the flag the three fireman hoisted on 9/11-a now iconic image-comparable to the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima. I found myself caught in all the emotions that are 9/11-all the memories flooding back as if was happening again. I thought if I begin watching this program I won't be able to stop. Then I thought, and not for the first time-this is just a small fraction of what the families feel each year and maybe and quite possibly every day of their lives since 9/11. I will not be able to participate this year in the ceremonies at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. There will be a luminaria ceremony there next Tuesday evening. How will you remember the nearly 3,000 American lives lost on 9/11?
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Three years ago I was asked to teach at a regional branch of Kent State University that is in the same county (Geauga) where I teach full-time at Chardon Middle School. I was thrilled! As I looked toward the end of my middle school teaching career this provided me an opportunity to continue teaching-with a different population. I also felt that perhaps after over thirty years in the classroom I had something to share. Kent's Geauga campus offered a MCED program-Middle Childhood Education. I began on my journey with a textbook Introduction to Middle School that was used by two professors at the Main campus. Those two-Dr. Steve Turner and Dr. Teresa Rishel were so kind to me in the weeks leading up to my first time teaching the course titled Teaching and Learning. I jumped into the materials they provided me and the textbook. It will soon have its third edition and is written by a professor from North Carolina. Her name is Dr. Sara Powell. Not long after I began the process of preparing to teach the course for the first time I decided to e-mail Dr. Powell with a couple questions. To my surprise, she e-mailed me right back and she too was so kind to me just as Dr. Rishel and Dr. Turner had been. As I began teaching that semester my students thought it a little unusual that I was corresponding with Dr. Powell or Sara as I began to call her. One of the things I really liked about her text as I began to use it with my students is that she seamlessly combined theory with practice. Each chapter in her book had stories about real schools, real teachers, and real students. Sara began to ask me questions as well and to my surprise last fall she asked if I would like to be included in the third edition of her text. After I picked myself up off the floor I began to answer the questions she had given me. When my e-mails usually get long I usually say to the recipient-"I hope you're still reading...." The question that relates particularly to this blog and today's post's title is the service projects I had completed with my students. Before I get to that though I should say Dr. Powell surprised me (rather shock really) a third time by asking me last January if I would co-present with her this November at the Association for Middle Level Education's national conference in Minneapolis. Our topic was service-learning and Sara's idea came to her in the middle of the night (get it-middle as in middle school!) The title she envisioned was Learning to Serve, Serving to Learn. I have spent a good many hours this summer drafting my part of the presentation which is to lean heavily on the practical part of service-learning or the kid part. My thoughts have now spilled on to about 20 pages, but I would like to share with you today is my vision for service-learning that I hope happens one day in the not-too-distant future at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I believe the story of the 40 heroes of United 93 and the Memorial offer an opportunity to teach young people skills that they can take back to their middle schools and lead other students. I would call this the Flight 93 Academy. I actually wrote a grant for such a project in the spring of 2012, but my principal at the time did not share my vision-he felt the grant did not include enough students. When retirement from my full-time job comes next June I will begin more work on this dream of mine. I can see groups of students from several states spending several days at the Memorial. The completion date of the next phase of construction is 2014 with the Visitors Center. I have been told the center will include a classroom. I love classrooms, but service-learning takes place outside the walls of a classroom. I envision students learning the story of Flight 93's heroes and walking away just as others have done before them and making a decision to go back to their communities and schools to make a difference.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
As we approach the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence it is a good time to reflect on not only the founding of our nation, but on the founders-the men who wrote that document. Volumes have been written about these men and the debates that went on behind the scenes. This July 4th also represents the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Again volumes have been written about the men from both sides who fought this monumental battle. Both Philadelphia and Gettysburg will be loaded with tourists and historians over this next week. Not too far from both sites is a national park whose history is much more recent. On September 11th, the nation will pause to remember all the citizens lost in New York City, Washington D. C. and in a field in rural Pennsylvania. In an e-mail I received yesterday from National Park ranger Adam Shaffer the Flight 93 Memorial has had great crowds this summer-including bikers, motorcycle groups, tour buses, and citizens like you and me. Holidays are about families, time off from work, and likely a picnic or two. It should also be a time to pause and reflect on not only the founding of our nation, but also some of the events that have almost crumbled that foundation. 9/11 was just one of those days. Besides the event of the crashing of United 93 near Shanksville, Pennsylvania it would be appropriate to remember the 40 brave heroes aboard that flight. The crew and passengers made decisions that day that saved other lives. Their plane did not make it to its intended target. It is interesting to visit the Memorial and see their names on the white panels that make up the impressive memorial. I encourage you to research those individuals. Each and every one of them has a fascinating story. I have mentioned the book Among the Heroes by Jere Longman many times on this blog as well as the film United 93. There are also numerous documentaries and the NPS website as well. As you take time to reflect this week remember those men and women, but not just this week.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Flag Day 2013 will be celebrated this Friday June 14th. Although not an official federal holiday, it nonetheless honors an event dating back to 1777. It celebrates the adoption of the American flag. Last July I blogged about my first time as a volunteer at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I worked through the Friends of Flight 93 as a Plaza Greeter. What I remember most about those two days was that people wanted to talk-both as they came to the Memorial and as they left. It leaves an impression. One of the visitors told me he felt very strongly that the large American flag that is at the plaza should permanently be at half mast. When I relayed this comment to one of the National Park Service rangers he gave me an explanation as to why they could not do this. That explanation I will have to ask for again when I return to volunteer again this summer. Flags fly at half mast usually upon the death of an important American-often, but not always a government official. Flag Day seems like one of those holidays that as a kid I took for granted. As an adult the flag means so much more to me now. I have never served in the military, but as an educator I try to plan special lessons, activities, and programs every Veterans Day and Pearl Harbor Day and of course on 9/11. D Day happens to fall after school has ended as does Flag Day. Last Saturday evening I found myself sitting next to a board of education member in the district where I teach. Both of our daughters were in the same dance recital. He knew I was retiring at the end of next school year and asked if I would be spending more time at Shanksville. He was kidding, to a certain degree, but I certainly hope to do that. Just a few days ago our sixth grade made our annual trip to the site as part of our 3 day trip to Hershey, PA. Each trip to the site is always memorable to me and I hope it is for our students as well. This year we were able to watch a video on the tour bus prior to our visit. It was produced by The Friends of Flight 93 and features narration by two NPS rangers-Adam Shaffer and Wendy Clay. Both happened to be at the site that day as well. I spoke to a volunteer at the wall that day and she asked the ages of our students. This is probably the last group that would have been alive on 9/11 so our work for the future is really cut out for all of us in the field of education. As summer is here I hope you consider a visit to the Flight 93 Memorial-who knows it may be on one of the days I am there volunteering!
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Last Saturday April 20th I had a chance to volunteer at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The weather could not have been much worse-cold, windy, and snowy. The experience could not have been better! Some times it is hard to pick the best part of a really great day so I won't try to pick one, but right at the top was the opportunity to spend time with Debby Borza, the mother of youngest hero Deora Bodley. Whenever I am with Debby the idea that I have young adult daughters always comes to mind. Debby has worked tirelessly on getting the Memorial built. She has served on boards and been very active in western Pennsylvania. She currently serves on the board of the Friends of Flight 93 and was there last Saturday to help plant seedlings. To see her there made me jump-to find out I would be in her work group made me jump straight up in the air! If you ever watch the film United 93-watch all the extras at the end. There is a segment when actors from the film visit the families of the hero they portrayed. The young actress that portrayed Deora visited Debby at her then home in California shortly after the completion of the film. It is moving and captures the spirit of Debby Borza. On the first anniversary of the shootings at Chardon High School I had my students engaged in a peace activity. I have a poster in my room with a quote from Deora-, "People ask how, what, where, when and why. I ask peace." One of my students wanted to include this in her peace message. I was so moved I had to contact Debby to let her know. Deora was nine when she wrote this. That evening on the way to a memorial for the three boys killed at Chardon High School on 2/27/12, I received a phone call from Debby. Debby was able to give me comfort in that phone call. I was having trouble with what I felt was a lack on my school's part on memorializing the lives lost. She intellectualized what had likely happened and gave me solace. This is the kind of person she is. It has been an honor for me to have met her and to be able to call her a friend and a Friend (of Flight 93). Prior to moving out to our work site my friend and colleague from Chardon Middle School, Julie Kenny and I sat with Debby and listened to short speeches from the corporate sponsors: Alcoa Foundation, Arbor Day Foundation, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, NASCAR, NRG Energy, Pocono Raceway, and The UPS Foundation. Governor Tom Corbett spoke as well and brought a small seedling from Gettysburg which this year celebrates its 150th anniversary. I was also pleased to see and visit with King Laughlin of the National Park Service who is the Flight 93 Manager. A visit to Flight 93 would not be complete without seeing Donna Glessner, Barbara Black, Adam Schaffer, and Jeff Reinbold. Donna is secretary of the Friends Board, Barbara wears many hats(literally), Adam is an NPRS Ranger who seems to always be on duty whenever our school visits, and Jeff is the Park Manager. In his remarks Jeff mentioned that this land was once a forest, then a farm, then a mine, then abandoned into a field again, and now a memorial that will one day be a forest again. Last Sunday evening there was a 60 Minutes segment on the opening of the 9/11 Museum next year. I was thrilled to hear all victims of 9/11 will be included at the museum. When I shared this with Barbara in an e-mail the next day she told me the folks in NYC had been in touch with PA. As I have said in earlier blogs....as spring is here and summer approaches, consider a visit to the Flight 93 Memorial in your travel plans-you won't be disappointed.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Last week I was on a family vacation at Walt Disney World in Orlando. My youngest daughter's high school marching band performed in the afternoon parade at Magic Kingdom on Tuesday afternoon's Dream Come True parade. Our oldest daughter, who now lives in Boston, was able to join us for the week. On our last evening, we had some time before our dinner reservation at Epcot so we visited America in the World Showcase. Inside is a theater show called "The American Adventure" and the "stars" are Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin. It is a rather schmaltzy panorama of about 300 years of American history dating back to the Pilgrims. There are many Disney animatronics recreating figures in American history such as George Washington or Fredrick Douglass. At different times a full scrim falls to reveal famous American documents like the Declaration of Independence. At other times there are famous newspaper headlines or images of heroes like Charles Lindbergh. Toward the end of the nearly half hour show there are images of 9/11 including the famous one of the firefighters hoisting the American flag in New York City. Remember United 93 flashes quickly across the screen. Those images still provoke strong memories and I suppose they always will. It reminds me through all that history that in 2001 we still received most of our news about the day from television, not the Internet. If one were to stage a show just about 9/11, who would you choose to narrate the events? George H. W. Bush? Tom Browkaw? Mayor Guiliani? A senator or member of the House of Representatives whom could have been the intended target of Flight 93? A NYFD or NYPD 9/11 widow? A farmer from Somerset County, Pennsylvania who actually saw United 93 crash? A U. S. citizen who was born in the Middle East, but fell victim to hatred following 9/11? 9/11 can't be called an adventure, but it was an event that shaped America and defined us-defined a whole generation just like the events in 'The American Adventure did-wars, Westward expansion, and more.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
It happened again. Two of my worlds collided and it happened in a whoosh. Last Monday I was teaching my curriculum class at Kent State University to future middle school teachers. I was working on explaining the formation of learning activities. I was looking for something a little out-of-the-box and happened to find a lesson about combining history and photography. It's a good lesson because everyone seems to have a favorite photograph from history. Since I have become involved with Flight 93, I have had the good fortune to meet so many interesting people. One of them is Val McClatchey. Val is a life-long resident of Somerset County and lives just miles from the crash site. On September 11, 2001 she took a photograph from the front of her house that shows a large cloud of smoke above a red barn-a bit of tragedy in an otherwise bucolic scene. Val titled the photograph aptly "The End of Serenity." Two years ago our school was involved in a Flight 93 Oral History project. We placed a small ad in the News Herald explaining our project with some contact information. One of Val's friends in Northeast Ohio from her Camaro Club spotted it and let her know. Before the morning was over, Val had telephoned my school. She would eventually visit our school, spending a day sharing all her Flight 93 mementos with our students. There is a long story behind her photograph-too long for this particular blog. During her visit Val gave me a large copy of the photograph. I would also spend time at Val's home when she invited my teaching colleague and I to her home for lunch during one of our pre-trips to Somerset County. It was memorable to say the least. Val has also joined our classes at the site the last two years we have visited. When I visited the completed Memorial for the first time on September 10, 2011 I was thrilled to see that Val's photograph was one of the eight displays at the Memorial Plaza. It serves as part of the introduction to 9/11 and Flight 93 before visitors make their way up the walkway to the actual memorial. My lesson at Kent served to show the students that photos, illustrations, and even paintings can be used to introduce important historical events and concepts. As I was teaching I was telling my class about how I have volunteered at the Memorial and that National Park Service rangers do talks at certain times during the crowded weekend hours. Rangers use photographs to tell the story. Since I have served as a Plaza Greeter I suddenly had an Aha! moment as I realized it was Val's photograph that every visitor to the Flight 93 Memorial sees first.