Every year at our high school’s Open House night in mid-September, I tell my students’ parents that I don’t expect their children to become historians, but rather that they learn and hone the skills of historians to explore the past. I want my students to realize that the practice of understanding context, digging for meaning, searching for more evidence, and seeking multiple perspectives will serve them well in all that they do. Whether this is in science, in English, in math, in business, in engineering, or even in their own personal lives, the study of history teaches us to be better thinkers, writers, and speakers.
Practicing hands-on history is not just good for students, it is good for teachers as well. If teachers are excited by the history they are teaching, their students will know it and they will feel it. We must be lifelong learners and we must model the skills that we are teaching. I too am a student of history - in a class, at a historic site, in the library, or on my couch watching the latest American Experience.
The opportunity to study World War II where it happened is thrilling and certainly an experience that will enrich my understanding and teaching. The chance to spend the academic year leading up to such an experience studying a specialized aspect of World War II makes this even more exciting.