As I write this blog there are exactly 13 days left of the Teaching American History grant which officially ends on August 31, 2014. My job as the director of the grant will phase out as I finish up our last event, Books and BBQ 2 (it’s not too late to sign up for lots of freebies and great food!), and write the final reports that I will submit to the federal government where I will try to capture the work we have done over the last four years of this version of the grant, First Person America.
The intent of the TAH grants from the beginning was to provide teachers of American History with high quality professional development and the opportunity to improve their teaching and the knowledge of their students about American History. In our First Person America grant, we have had book studies, teacher projects, field trips, and opportunities to discuss the teaching and learning of history with our colleagues. The focus has been on understanding and developing historical thinking skills in ourselves and our students. It has been an amazing experience for me! I have met and worked phenomenal historians and dedicated teachers. I have traveled to Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg, New York City, Kansas City, Richmond and Albuquerque.
I have learned that history is not the truth about the past; it is our interpretation of the past based on evidence. Two historians can use the same evidence to build very different arguments about the past depending on the questions they ask. History is not static. It only seems that way in the textbooks.
I have learned that teaching history is so much more than having students memorize names and dates. The teachers I have worked with over the last four years have taught me that teaching history is built on passion for the content and compassion for the students. Teachers know that many students do not share their passion for history, so they must find ways to ignite students’ interest in the people, places and events of the past. They make connections between the people and events of the past and the students’ lives and concerns. These are classrooms where history is alive and well and I am proud to know the teachers who make this kind of teaching and learning happen everyday.
With the end of the Teaching American History grant, this blog will shift focus somewhat to all things Social Studies, rather than just American history. I will continue to write about historical thinking, standards and the teaching and learning of history as long as my keyboard holds out and the ideas flow!