Sunday, March 7, 2010

Teaching to the Present and the Future

Tonight, for my Classroom Management Course, I interviewed a student teacher from Taylor. One of things we talked about was making the content relevant for the student. She is Math Education, and I am Social Studies Education so two very different subject matters. Both are very important for students in today's world. One thing that she noted about history was that one of her students told her history became interesting once he realized how much it effected the decisions that we make today and how helpful it is to predicting the future.

One the key importance about the discipline of history is that it helps us make decisions about the past. Yet, how can this be put into the classroom?

One way is to teach about the past and point out how it is effecting the present. This can be hard. "Who cares about what is going on Iraq today, much less 3000 years ago," says the naive student. Students, and people in general, don't care about what is outside of their immediate environment and does not bring about pleasure. According to Aristotle, failures at living the good life. Kierkegaard called this the "aesthetic life style." One who lives like this wants to be entertained and lives chiefly for pleasure. Their focus: the immediate environment around them.

How do you pull an aesthete out of his/her egotistical life? You take his immediate surroundings and make it bigger. You work with them to realize that we are a global society, what goes on in Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Kenya and where ever is important to their lives.

For instance, all students should be caring a lot about what is going on in Iraq right now. 1. We have American soldiers there. 2. Most the oil reserves are in the Middle East. Specifically, Iraq has 112 billion barrels. You want to drive home after school? Start paying attention and learn where the fuel you burn comes from and what that place is about. (By the way, the link to PBS is very interesting. Worth looking through.)

Another way to help students realize how important history is, is to relate to their personal life. I think biographies are extremely important here. The testimonies of Christians has been extremely helpful for my life, and I believe that if historical figures (good and bad) are taught in detail in the classroom, students will begin to realize the importance of history. [Just a thought: imagine being in a U.S. History course where it's all taught from the perspective of a specific individual in time. So what was the American Revolution like to Andrew Jackson and what it was like for a German Hessen. How could would that be!]

So there are two ways that I have come up to help students realize that history is important for their lives.

One last thought: be exited about your topic. I love history and if students see that in me, hopefully some of it rubs off. (This was one other thing that I got from my interview.)

"You have to know the past to understand the present."
Carl Sagan

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