I've been in education for 11 years. I remember this because the fall of my first year as an educator was the fall of September 11. Before that day I still felt like a child. I felt foolish often in front of my senior English classes-as if I were an impostor and not a teacher. It was like playing dress-up each day. Only a few short months before I had been a student. Now I was standing at the board, instructing students a mere five years my junior. The first literature unit we dove into was Beowulf. The epic struggle in British Literature between good and evil. Between a hero and a monster. How appropriate.
September 11 was the date of the very first exam I gave as a teacher. I arrived early that day to make sure everything was ready. Stacks of Beowulf exams were at attention on my front table. Different ones for each block. (I may have been a new teacher, but I felt I was wise to the ways of students) I even had extra pens stacked in neat piles just in case anyone conveniently forgot theirs. I am positive I was more anxious than my students were. As the morning wore on, I sat at my table, watching their heads bent in concentration, hoping the knowledge I had imparted stuck in their brains and shone on the essays their pens were scratching on paper.
Across the hall, the Senior Government teacher was showing a film, so I gave permission to my students to go watch as they completed their exams. We were down to the final two test-takers when the entire class showed back up at my door. One of my male students, an entire head taller than me, said "a plane crashed into the twin towers!" I did not believe him at all. He was known for trying to pull my leg, and I was not about to let this be an exception. As I was trying to argue with him our principal came over the PA to explain what happened. Before I knew it, fingers resting in a dusty chalk tray, I crossed the great divide from green and young teacher to adult shepherding scared teenagers through a national crisis.
Each year I remember the faces of my Senior English students. I remember their wide eyes as we listened to the announcements that morning. I remember huddling around televisions in the classrooms that had them. I remember fear crackling in the air. I remember sitting on my hands to hide their shaking. I remember seeing the same feelings reflected back at me in the eyes of educators 30 years my senior.
I have been an educator for 11 years. Passing from classroom to guidance office. Moving from newbie to veteran. In these 11 years I have had more students than I can count. More students than I can possibly remember. I still have those exams I gave that day in 2001. That group of seniors will always remain with me. We all became adults together 12 years ago. We all remember.