As I sat in my sixth-grade classroom in Wilmington, Del., stealing looks at the clock for an upcoming violin lesson, our principal made two brief but clear announcements over the PA system about 30 minutes apart. "Your president has been shot" and "Your president is dead." I was struck by the deliberate use of the pronoun "your" and have never forgotten what a child-centered setting I was fortunate enough to experience there.
The assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK saddened me deeply and even caused me to worry about people whose last names began with "K." Ultimately, I read many books and articles connected to JFK's assassination and recently posted a JFK cable movie to my calendar. The Warren Commission and House Select Committee reports taught me how vital it is to conduct thorough investigations, invite divergent thinking and consider conspiracy theories. Learning to explore truths set forth by my elders and embrace possible alternatives was an unexpected side effect.
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Ultimately, these tragic events influenced me to spend 32 enriching years in the classroom with children who were encouraged to take ownership for their own learning and express their opinions in the comfort of a diverse but accepting audience.