Talking about Tragedies

The first activity the 7th graders did this past Friday at Summer School was to write two paragraphs about an issues they wanted to change. More specifically, if they could change or eliminate any problem in the world what would it be? This writing prompt was inspired by the shootings in Dallas that occurred the night before. The teacher of the class began by speaking a little bit about the attack and some of the prior clashes between police officers and minority groups across the United States. I was surprised that the teacher talked about this subject especially with a group of energetic kids. I thought the topic might be too complicated and perhaps too mature for 7th graders. But I thought back to my own experience with breaking news and how it was discussed with me.

I was in 1st grade when planes were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. I don’t remember much of what happened during the school day but I remember as soon as I was home my dad turned the TV on to a news channel showing footage of a burning building. The next day in class I remember the teacher asking us if we knew what had happened yesterday. In retrospect it’s surprising that everyone knew planes had hit the World Trade Center – but of course none of us knew the significance of this event. We didn’t know that 9/11, an otherwise sunny and uneventful day, would become a defining moment of our lifetimes. At some point that week there was a moment of silence and I remember standing but I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. I only began to learn more about what happened on 9/11 years later when I asked some of my middle school teachers about that day.

I’ve come to realize that kids will be exposed to these events no matter what. With the accessibility of the internet, kids could even see these events play out in graphic detail. So it only makes sense that these events are brought up at school by a respected figure (like a teacher) who can provide appropriate and correct information. Though the Dallas shootings aren’t on the same scale as 9/11, there is still the presence of underlying issues such as gun control, race relations, and police brutality that should be discussed.

Yet, I was still skeptical about the responses to the writing prompt. I believed that the kids would just write about wanting a longer recess or more gym time. But instead the responses were varied and very well intentioned with topics including world peace, curbing pollution, eliminating economic and racial discrimination, and promoting safer driving. I didn’t expect to see these inspired, well thought out ideas that focused on positivity and safety rather than killing and retribution. Though topics like this are difficult to discuss, they do seem to have more weight and meaning that I think the kids felt as well.

Nate Kumar