Experiencing crisis in schools : examining preservice teachers' reflections on September 11 and their notions of citizenship




Bellows, Mary Elizabeth

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Teachers and children who were in schools on September 11, 2001 harbor unique, personal, and accessible memories of the events that occurred that Tuesday morning. Educational research has attended to this (inter)national crisis in a multitude of ways, yet there exists a gap in the literature that attends to how today’s preservice teachers remember the crisis through the lens of citizenship. To add complexity, adolescents who were in classrooms on September 11 are now adults, and some are studying to be teachers. This dissertation study aims to highlight how preservice teachers remember 9/11, how they understand citizenship, and how they plan to teach about 9/11 as an historical event to elementary students. This study presents the findings of a qualitative instrumental case study of five elementary preservice teachers’ memories of September 11, 2001 as experienced as adolescents in school. The author investigates how the preservice teachers’ memories intersect with understandings of citizenship, and how the young teachers plan to teach about 9/11 in an elementary social studies setting. Preservice teachers in the study participated in two interviews and one think-aloud lesson planning session with the researcher. Data analysis indicate the preservice teachers’ understandings of citizenship are still evolving, yet the crisis of 9/11 further complicates—or interrupts—more critical notions of citizenship. The participants’ memories of 9/11 are vivid and include reactions of their classmates and teachers. When participants were asked to create a lesson plan for elementary students, they felt overwhelmed by the amount of resources on the topic, and that they did not know enough about 9/11 to teach about it effectively. Findings suggest the singular understandings of citizenship held by participants are temporal and contextual. During a time of crisis—and specifically during and following 9/11—citizens succumbed to more belligerent notions of citizenship, and later, their memories contribute to their still evolving teacher identities. Drawing from their own civic understandings and memories of 9/11, four of the five preservice teacher participants planned to use their lessons about 9/11 to teach children how citizens come together in a time of crisis. One participant chose to design a week-long unit of instruction that allows students to examine the events of 9/11 in more critical ways. Finally, the study raises questions about the drastic range of possibilities in teaching 9/11 in elementary school, and exposes how teachers choose to include and exclude certain images, narratives, and accounts from the story.



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