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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Always Has a Story to Tell (Dear Katie V1 #12)

Dear Katie,

My last year at Christian Heritage School in Trumbull, CT, I was humbled by the senior class ('99) by receiving the yearbook dedication.  Among the various awards and commendations I have ever received, I still consider this to be my greatest because it came from a group of students who made me look like a better teacher than I really was.  They did this by taking every class discussion, every classroom simulation (World War I, Civil War, etc), and every video project to the nth degree and drove them in directions I never imagined.  The creativity of that class spurred me on to develop better lessons for them to explore and expand upon.

Among the kind words they said of me, one sentence stood out.  They said I, "Always had a story to tell."  I guess I always do tell stories, some of them personal.  And there are some good reasons for this:

1) Kids love hearing stories.  And if you can tie a concept you are trying to teach to a story, the student will have a better chance to remember the concept.

2) It allows students to know you are human.  They can identify with you.  It makes you authentic and someone who shares the same joys and struggles as they do.

3) It allows them to make sense of history.  Whenever I can I try to share a personal antidote to bring home a historical point.  For example, when teaching about the Cold War and how the Soviets created a buffer zone with Western Europe, I talk about how a young lady years ago complained how teachers use her as a buffer zone when they place her between two students who always talk.   There is real life meeting history for the student.

4) And if I cannot come up with a personal story I will create a hypothetical situation and place the names of people in the classroom into the story.  You would be surprised how kids are glued to the story you are weaving when they hear the names of their classmates in it.  When talking about economics I will use words to take them into the cafeteria and discuss a mythical conversation about snacks and sandwiches between two of their classmates to illustrate why people trade.

When I taught World War I, I often taught students that nations act like individuals just with greater consequences.  They would have to create a poster illustrating on one half a reason why World War I began (such as Nationalism or pride, Alliances or Cliques, and Revenge) and on the other half how that same concept can create conflict in school.  Not only do students know why things occur, but they are now thinking of ways to take those same concepts and apply them to their lives.  And as a teacher, the fun is in watching them create wonderful scenarios illustrating their point.

Just as stories from your life can teach them history, history can teach them about their life.

Just My Opinion,

Uncle Kevin

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