History Helps Shape the Present

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Teachers should help students connect through real life experiences.

Most people growing up think history is an extremely boring subject, a rote memorization of facts that have no bearing on modern day social dynamics. With that said, it is the teacher’s job to connect history to the students’ lives and personal experiences. Without that connection, education is meaningless and becomes a job for the students.

I recently asked my eighth-grade students to read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and connect with the experiences of slavery and the Civil War. I read the book and noticed many parallels within Frederick Douglass’ story. As a result, my history classes had insightful conversations about the social order and culture of Americans.

Douglass’s experiences have fueled classroom conversations about the treatment of Black women, the importance of re-building the black family, the impact of Chattel slavery on the psychology of people in America and the value of knowing how to read.

In the book, Douglass details the negative treatment of black women by cruel overseers and the examination of slaves to determine their sale price. In class, my students debated the value of a woman’s physical and mental attributes.

When reading about how Frederick Douglass was sold to several plantations, we then discussed the effect that absent fathers may have on a child’s progression, which led to a conversation about self-esteem and self-perception.

Not only does the book explain the events that shaped this country, it helps students discover more about themselves and the decisions they make. Education is about growth and educators are magicians in the classroom. Our job is to make subjects matter to our students. Education is only real when it connects to to real life experiences.