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This is a short instruction on Debriefing students on a Crisis
Title – Debriefing a Crisis for Elementary Students
By – Eirini Gouleta
Primary Subject – Other
Secondary Subjects –
Grade Level – First Graders
Two days after the terrorist attack, my 1st graders and I sat in a circle on the rug to talk about the tragic events. I started our discussion with a small introduction: As you all know our school was closed yesterday because of things that happened in New York and the Pentagon on Tuesday” and I continued with the question: “What do you know about these things?”
I wanted to assess the level of my students’ knowledge and understanding about the event before I proceeded with the discussion. This is because my students are very young and I had to be extremely careful in terms of how, when, and what information I should disclose. I did not want to lie to them but I wanted to keep the discussion at an appropriate level for their developmental stage.
My students responded in a way beyond my expectations. Our discussion seemed more like a Socratic seminar where I was a simple facilitator and they were the ones who actually carried the conversation. They did not look at me seeking for answers but they asked questions to their peers and sought the answers from each other. The discussion was very productive. We expressed our feelings about the attacks, the people who lost their lives and their loved ones, the firemen, policemen, medical professionals, construction workers, and volunteers who helped with the rescue efforts. We also emphasized the difference between being afraid and being careful. We decided that we should not be afraid and must have trust in our President, government, police, military, parents, and teachers that they will protect us in every possible way.
We looked on the world map and identified the places that we all came from: Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, North America and then, the US and our home in the US, Arlington, VA. We talked about our community in the United States of America and about all the things we do together to help our community to prosper. We stood up and held hands in a circle showing our friendship and unity and our caring for one another and we said that we are determined to protect each other, and our unity from every outsider who wants to harm our community.
My students were very responsive to the discussion and the activities. In the end, they drew pictures and wrote about the attacks highlighting the wonderful efforts of the firefighters, policemen, construction workers, medical professionals, the Red Cross, and volunteers who are helping in the rescue and recovery efforts. The art teacher, Mrs. Brundage, Mrs. Jiron, and I were amazed with their wonderful products. Their illustrations of the tragic events and the rescue efforts were amazing. We sent their pictures to the New York firefighters with the assistance of our Music teacher, Mrs. Woldow.
Summary and Reflection
Since Thursday, September 13 and after our discussion and activities on that day, my students appear to be very calm and relaxed. We did not have any other discussions about the terrorist attacks and I have not observed any abnormal behaviors that require particular attention. One of the wonderful things about children at this age is the enormous internal strength and resilience that they exhibit. They have a magic, beautiful, and inexplicable way of comforting themselves and they are able to move on, laugh, and play again in a short period of time after the tragedy. We, the adults, have so much to learn from them! We just need to rediscover our “inner child’, allow ourselves to heal, move on, and dream again.
Ms. Eirini Gouleta
1st Grade Teacher
Arlington Public Schools, Virginia
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