Updated: Mar 16, 2021
Give students a Passport to the Past. It is possible to get teenagers excited about the Global History classroom. It's part teacher passion and expertise; without deep knowledge of the content, there is absolutely no way to break the instruction down to simplify complicated concepts. It's part performance and casting; the ability to tell a gripping story and humanize figures from the past so students can immerse themselves in characters they can relate to. History is full of intrigue and drama and quite frankly it's "R" rated. Tell the truth, dig deeper into the story, teach multiple perspectives and don't leave out the attention-getting bits. When students think they are privy to something no-one else is being taught and are being treated like respected young adults-your classroom becomes a special experience and students will engage on an emotional level. That is where the real learning, long term retention, application and analysis will happen. Years ago, I taught about Byzantine Empress Theodora and Emperor Justinian I during the Nika Rebellion. It's an event from history that could glaze over and bore students or it is the most exciting and relevant-think about it beyond the classroom-experience. It didn't hurt that at the time Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were THE celebrity couple and I had cast them in the roles of this blockbuster movie moment. Using primary documents and some role playing theatrics, it inspired students to consider the moral dilemma of what they would do in the situation if they were there and it became an important study in the sorely lacking representation of historical women in positions of power. Within every lesson is an important opportunity and obligation to weave in psychology and sociology, so within the study of historical figures and events there is a human element students can relate to that helps explain why people do what they do inclusive of historical or cultural norms. Create an experience every single day in the classroom, use the same tactics the media and commercial world use to sell products to consumers. In my classroom, the transferrable reading, writing and thinking skills from history was what I was selling. It was a complete sensory experience with music, food, artifacts, imagery, film, field trips both real and virtual, but most important of all, my role as the Pied Piper to entice students to emotionally and intellectually connect to the curriculum. If marketers could make a person care about spending money on a sneaker, I could do even more by reaching students in a way that made them care about and feel empathy for people they do not know and value the past to see the impact and influence on the present and the WHY behind it all. Studying global history is the ultimate human experience-make it one for students.