Remember how we imagined teaching would be? Students, projects, stacks of grading to complete- those were the things we knew to expect. Yet we were probably unaware of the sense of isolation educators sometimes feel. Teaching can be such a solitary profession. Although we may be part of an interdisciplinary team or the member of a department, the better part of our day is spent as the only adult in a roomful of students. Whom do we turn to for help or guidance? How do we form connections with a larger community of educators? What is the fabric that connects us to one another?
As a Facing History teacher, how do you start your school year? Are there key lessons or readings that set the tone for what you will do for the year? Do you explain what Facing History is or that you use this approach? (In this series, we asked a number of Facing History teachers to respond to a common question.)
In all my classes I begin with the concept of agency and personal choice. I tell the students that from their perspective, it is easy to assume that history had to unfold in the manner that it did, that history is somehow a series of inevitable events- but nothing could be further from the truth. I let them know that all year we will look at decisions nations and individuals made along the way and how these shaped the course of events. I tell students that the most important thing they understand is that their choices matter. I let the students know from day one that the class will be extremely interactive and discussion based because I want to reinforce DAILY that their voices matter, their participation is crucial, and their ability to think critically, reason soundly, question thoughtfully, and act ethically are the ONLY things learned in class I can guarantee they will be called upon to use again. (Names and dates of historical events, not so much!)