As a History teacher, it will come as no surprise that I think that studying the past is one of the most enjoyable things we can do. However, I frequently get asked by students, teachers and even my own friends why someone would invest so much time in people and events that haven’t existed for a very long time.
I thought I would summarise my typical answers to these people in today’s blog post.
Let’s face it: teaching the critical use of sources is tough. This is primarily because it seems to take a lot of work to create a lesson based around source material. First of all, you need to find the sources, which usually takes a significant time, and it can be frustrating trying to find sources from various perspectives that are intelligible to our students. Secondly, it is difficult trying to think up good questions or engaging activities that get students to provide substantial answers. Finally, it is difficult to know whether each and every student has genuinely understood what it means to ‘think critically’.
Last year I walked into my classroom with a new idea. During the first five minutes of the lesson I gave my students the necessary instructions and then for the next hour, they all worked quietly, diligently and enthusiastically. Rather than just standing in front of them and talking, I spent the time observing the students and working one-on-one with those who needed help. At the end, I asked the class how they enjoyed their lesson. Without exception, every single student said that they loved it and wanted to do it again. As I walked out of the classroom I was amazed by how simple and effective my idea had been.
In my role as a high school teacher, I have three devices from which to work: a laptop, an Apple iPad Air 2 and a Microsoft Surface Pro. Whilst the first two are supplied by my school, the Surface is something I have personally purchased. Yet people wonder why I only ever use the Surface whilst the other two gather dust on my staffroom desk.