Monday marked the beginning of my 4th year as a middle school history teacher. Like last year, I am teaching 8th grade United States history. I thoroughly enjoy teaching this subject and watching my students make connections to their present while we study the past.
The past two years I was fortunate enough to teach the same group of students (in both 7th and 8th grade), which means that for the first time in a couple years, and only the third time in my career, I have 135 new names to learn. I forgot how daunting this is! Today, if you popped into my class toward the end, you would have seen the students working on a map of the United States, while I walked around quizzing myself on their names— mumbling. I’m sure many of them were wondering who this crazy teacher was saying their names under his breath. Oh well. It is helping.
Last night, I gave the students their first homework assignment: SHEG’s “Snapshot Autobiography.” For this assignment, they were to highlight 4 events in their life (one of which had to be their birth), explaining what the events were and why they are significant in shaping them to be who they are today. Then, to understand that history contains different perspectives, they were to interview someone who experienced the same event in order to get their point of view. 99% of my students acknowledged that the other person’s story was different, even if only slightly. This was a perfect segue into the importance of looking for and looking at multiple perspectives in history.
Now Wednesday in the first week, I am finally getting excited about the year. To be honest, the first couple days aren’t the most exciting for me. Drilling procedures and setting up routines to make sure the class runs effectively throughout the year is by far the least exciting part of teaching for me. I’ve learned (through fire), however, that if I do not drill this stuff early on, I can never even get to the best part of teaching: learning about, thinking about, and writing about the past. Today I got a glimpse of the historical thinking I will be pushing my students to live by this year, and it was a good glimpse. Three days in, and I am starting to feel like the school year has started, and I know it is going to be a good one.