It’s Twilight Zone Day!

Posted by Mary Hendra on May 11, 2015

I’m not kidding! One of the first things I heard on the radio this morning was that it’s Twilight Zone Day, and I can’t help but think of a Twilight Zone episode often used in Facing History classrooms:

The Eye of the Beholder

What about you? Is there a Twilight Zone episode – old or new – which you love for its message, the question(s) it raises, or the way you can use it in the classroom?

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Topics: Film, Identity, Critical Thinking


Posted by Mary Hendra on January 19, 2015

I've been thinking about courage recently.

There is so much going on in the world that is challenging, disheartening, and complex. Sometimes we think of courage in big acts:

  • Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. leading enormous, history-changing non-violent movements
  • the heroism of a firefighter entering a burning building
  • the choice to go in to the heart of a conflict, bringing the stories of others to the world through reporting or physically saving others' lives

I think that courage also comes on a daily and individual level just in making the commitment to stay engaged with the world, to learn about difficult moments and to be willing to question what we have grown up believing, assuming, or simply not knowing.

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Topics: Choosing to Participate, Armenian Genocide, Critical Thinking, workshop, Judgement and Legacy

Hidden Gems of 2014

Posted by Mary Hendra on December 31, 2014

Last week we highlighted our top five posts for 2014. Here are a few more posts we think are hidden gems, and worth a second look.

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Topics: Choosing to Participate, Critical Thinking, Urban Education, A View from the Classroom

NCSS Recap: Inspiration for Social Studies Teachers

Posted by Mary Hendra on December 12, 2014

This year, the National Council for Social Studies had its annual conference in Facing History's home town of Boston. Teachers from around the country flew in - including many Facing History teachers who presented, attended sessions, and stopped by the booth. I got to go too!

I loved attending conferences like this as a teacher. Inspiration abounds from colleagues and keynotes alike...

  • DOCUMENTED - the film about Jose Antonio Vargas coming out about not having legal papers for US residency.
  • NICHOLAS KRISTOF - who, with his wife Sheryl WuDunn, has created the upcoming series, "A Path Appears" to highlight that action in the face of injustice IS possible.
  • REDESIGNING CIVIC EDUCATION IN A DIGITAL AGE - a session that left me with more questions than answers around the theme of how civic engagement is changing. That's good, right?
  • FACING HISTORY AND OURSELVES - yes, us! With this conference in our backyard, there were so many staff members and teachers involved and new resources highlighted.

In the goal of keeping the inspiration flowing, I wanted to share a few highlights, starting with keynote speaker and Facing History friend, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof.

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Topics: Teaching, Critical Thinking

The Power of Words

Posted by Mary Hendra on October 16, 2014

We hold these truths to be self-evident…

When in the course of human events…

… the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, …

There are some words that need little introduction. They call up an immediate reference to American democracy and the long and ongoing struggle for liberty which is unfinished work. I was reminded of this at our school culture summit this weekend at which we featured the film Cesar Chavez.

In one scene, the local sheriff comes to see Chavez after complaints about people gathering nightly. When the sheriff emphasizes the importance of being law-abiding, Chavez quickly responds that they do love the law, especially the First Amendment. When a hearing with Robert F. Kennedy is shown, Kennedy calls that same sheriff to task by telling him that during the break he should read the U.S. Constitution. To me, such scenes remind me both of the power of putting these ideals into words during the founding of our country, even if the ideal was not yet a reality, and the recognition that these words are a call to action to all of us to try to reach that ideal in our own interactions.

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Topics: Choosing to Participate, Critical Thinking, Religion

FLIPPED! The Small Steps of Democracy in a Flipped Classroom

Posted by Mary Hendra on September 10, 2014

It is easy to think of "democracy" only in terms of the big things: a political system, all of our government officials, an enormous bureaucracy which often seems removed and slow-moving. But, it is also the small steps. Democracy is a reflection of the choices we each make daily about how we will interact with each other.

For years, Facing History teachers have used a reading which shows this - an essay originally written by Jesus Colon as he reflected on a small moment in his own life, when stereotypes and societal expectations played a large role in the choice he made about interacting with others. His reflection provides an opportunity for all of us to think about the small opportunities for interaction presented by living in a democracy.

We now have a high tech version of this lesson, thanks to a collaboration with Zaption.

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Topics: Choosing to Participate, Critical Thinking, Teaching Strategy, Tech Innovation

I'm a Bear! Aren't I?

Posted by Elana Goldbaum on August 13, 2014

Working with students, in my case high school, "Who am I?" is not usually a question that you hear teenagers say aloud, but you can see them going through this on a daily basis: clothes they wear, makeup color choices, different hairstyles, questions they ask about religion or politics. I see my students working to find themselves in myriad of ways and I feel very privileged to be a part of that process. My challenge as a teacher is to take the concept of identity, as my students see it personally, and challenge them to relate it to people in history.
One of the most successful and fun ways I've been able to do this is by tailoring discussion around an old cartoon. This clip is a video adaptation of the illustrated book, The Bear That Wasn’t.


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Topics: Critical Thinking, Social and Emotional Learning, Teaching Strategy

"Remember the Ladies"

Posted by Stephanie Carrillo on July 18, 2014

When I taught U.S. history, early in the semester my students were required to read and discuss Abigail Adams' letter dated March 31, 1776 to her husband John. In it, Adams asks that her husband not forget about women's rights while fighting for America's independence from Great Britain. She wrote,

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Topics: Civil Rights Movement, Choosing to Participate, Teaching, Critical Thinking, Upstander

Happy Birthday, Anne!

Posted by Stephanie Carrillo on June 11, 2014

Anne Frank. The name and the face are instantly recognizable to millions of people throughout the world. And whether we think of Anne's legacy as one of a prodigious literary genius, an unfailing optimist, an insightful adolescent, or as a representative of the plight of Jews during World War II, the one word that we most closely associate with her is diary. Anne Frank received that now-famous diary on June 12, 1942 for her thirteenth birthday. Had she survived the Holocaust, Anne Frank would be 85 today.

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Topics: Teaching, Holocaust and Human Behavior, Critical Thinking, Social and Emotional Learning

It's Seminar Season!

Posted by Mary Hendra on June 4, 2014

I love teaching.

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Topics: Armenian Genocide, Holocaust and Human Behavior, Critical Thinking, workshop, Race and Membership in American History: Eugenics

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