All jokes aside, I think this meme has an important message. First, it shows that as a teacher I can keep things fun and relevant. It is essential, even in a history classroom, to keep things modern and connect with students through a form of media they know all to well, memes. If I showed this meme the first day of school the kids would automatically feel comfortable as it is something they are familiar with.
Secondly, the main point I am trying to get across in this meme is that every student has the right to be in the classroom. Every student is important and can contribute a significant amount. Therefore, even with the joke of Oprah Winfrey, the message is that every students gets to be an important member of the classroom while learning history (that will be connected to present day experiences).
A staple of every history class that I have had from elementary school to today is the dreaded research paper. More often than not, in my experience, history courses have found themselves in a set pattern of going from lectures on historical events and people, taking notes on said lectures, and then the class finally culminates in a term paper. The problem with this cycle is twofold: it lacks interesting and creative ways of teaching students that allows them to engage with the history rather than just being told facts and this cycle typically leaves interaction and engagement with the history in question to the term paper.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that these term papers are important for their use in helping students construct arguments and build critical thinking skills as well as learning how to identify “good” primary and secondary sources. There is no question that these papers are important, but where my problem lies with such papers is that, in my experience, a good many of the teachers I have had have made them the only source of historical interaction between lectures.
My goal as a teacher is to break this cycle and hopefully make history class more fun again. I plan to have my students interact with historical documents and voice their opinions on the matter, have interesting and immersive activities, and debates on a given topic we are learning to bounce ideas off one another on what we think on any given article or historical document.
In modern times, social studies courses often seem to take a backseat to the STEM fields. Yet, when you study math, science, or technology, what you are actually doing is studying the history of that field. Furthermore, history courses help students form an understanding of the world around them. This aspect of teaching history is what makes history courses significant and necessary.
We live in a complex and rapidly changing world. It is often impossible to know what’s going on, let alone how we ended up here. History classes offer clarity in these otherwise confusing times. It is the history teachers who give students the crucial lenses with which young people can come to see and understand the world. Furthermore, history teachers play a critical role in the development of young people as they help to form young minds that think critically, analyze sources, and know right from wrong.
As our world begins to revolve more around STEM fields, history, too, is becoming more important than ever. Let us have the courage to teach history, and teach it well. The future of our students, communities, and world depend on it.
Image from Adobe Spark Creative Commons.
History is a difficult subject to teach, for not only is it political by nature, textbooks create a tendency to learn from a single perspective. Obi-Wan’s obtuse narrative of Luke’s father’s death illustrates well the role bias and individual perception can play in shaping sources. As demonstrated by Obi-Wan, a single perspective can be misleading, and dangerous, if not measured against other voices. I love working with primary sources, I think they shine a light on the petty and pedestrian, breathing life into our usual diet of dates and kings. Still, if source based learning is implemented, it is important to introduce a diverse variety. For, if we only examine history from one perspective we are accepting that individuals narrative and not examining it critically.
As a teacher, I hope to utilize a wide array of voices in navigating the past. Raised on textbooks and lectures, when I started taking history courses in college, I found myself woefully unprepared. Primary sources not only build student interest, but teach critical thinking skills necessary for academic success and citizenship. Through the introduction and analysis of multiple narratives students will be offered an opportunity to escape the trap of a single story and realize in the words of Ben Kenobi, “ that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view”.