Mon, Aug. 19

History in the making<br>Teachers help students cope with national tragedy

As the world watched the attacks in New York and Washington, adults absorbed a tremendous responsibility.

What do we tell the children?

In the Verde Valley, teachers and administrators met the challenge by satisfying their students' hunger for information, providing ample time for discussion and even a brief history lesson. Nearly every school offered a moment of silence and all lowered their flags to half-mast in honor of the dead.

It was for most students their first national tragedy.

"We spent a lot of time watching events," explained Mingus Productions Instructor Mark Schumacher. "Students demonstrated the same horror and frustration that we all felt."

Like classrooms across the country, some teachers simply left the television on. "Students came in, sat down and started watching," explained Mingus teacher Pete Fredlake. "I figured it was the best thing I could do. History was happening."

Many teachers also saw Tuesday's events as an opportunity to welcome students into their own experience with tragedy.

"I've talked to my students about watching Jack Ruby shoot Oswald and the Kennedy assassination," explained Schumacher. " I was able to share with them the effect it had on my life in order to try to help them make some sense of this."

Instilling a sense of safety while horrific images of destruction were broadcast throughout the day was a challenge, said Mary Lue Allen of American Heritage Academy, an instructor of English, history and art.

"It was important for them to know they were safe," she explained.

For middle school students that meant providing them with a sense of confidence in the nation's leadership, she said. "We were trying to keep patriotism up. To have faith in our leaders that they are going to make the best decisions they can."

Todd Jacobs of Cottonwood Middle School also fielded questions Tuesday and provided students with some historical information regarding the existing conflict between the Middle East and the United States.

"It's touchy stuff, world conflict," he said, noting that by Thursday the quote of the day focused on heroism. "We're going to get up and do something," by United Airlines Flight 93 passenger Tom Burnett.

Elizabeth Fuller of AHA went a step further to help students understand the deep-seated frustrations between Palestinians and Israelis. "They don't have any understanding why these people are mad at you," the high school English and history teacher explained.

The school has sponsored speakers from Israel and Palestine to visit with students in hopes of clarifying the conflict in the Middle East.

For many students, the day's events required action. While some private schools gathered in prayer, public school students shared moments of silence, flag salutes and artistic expression.

"Being a Christian school we can direct children to pray," said the Verde Valley Christian School Administrator Crystal Thieme. "What we can do in Cottonwood is to pray for families, workers and those who are still buried. We also need to pray for the terrorists and let students know that God is keeping them safe."

In a special announcement made at Camp Verde Middle School, students were urged to "draw good from evil."

"Each of us has the power to increase peace and happiness in our world by choosing to treat others kindly and respectfully," the school's announcement urged.

"We needed to do something," said seventh grade CMS teacher Rhonda Gonzalez. "It was important to act." To honor the memory of victims, Gonzalez joined hands with students to form a circle around the school's flagpole.

Old Glory, like other flags in the Verde Valley, was flying at half-mast.