Many teachers can remember 9/11. For an adult, this event can rest squarely in history, but also close enough that memories can spring back. Many of our students were not alive in 2001, and if they were, they might be too young to remember where they were when they heard the news.
As Americans collectively deal with the strangeness and sadness of 9/11, commemorating the day poses an even stranger disconnect between students and teachers.
Seniors in high school were only 1 or 2 years old on the day of the attacks. Middle and elementary school students will likely have no recollection. So in a way, teachers and students will be grappling with a different event: For teachers, a live memory; for students, an event that may seem as relevant or irrelevant as any historical event before their birth.
So as the nation considers the question, “Why does 9/11 matter?” teachers and students have the unique opportunity to answer the question from very different perspectives. What could be an uncomfortable lesson becomes a moment of shared learning.
And this joint investigation approach can serve all historical lessons. When teachers and students genuinely investigate a question together from different perspectives, the discoveries will allow both teachers and students to learn.