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Teaching Historical Perspectives as a History Teacher

Since I started teaching, I've been working really hard on helping my students ​develop perspective and opinions of their own.

I recall doing an exercise in a previous year that asks my students when they think WWII started. Will they go with the common consensus of the Nazi Invasion of Poland on September 1939? Or will they choose a different date?

It was nice to hear some students arguing for a different date. One had argued the Attack on Pearl Harbor is the start of WWII, from an American perspective. Another argued the Remilitarization of the Rhineland when Germany openly defied the Treaty of Versailles is when things started going downhill.

I am not necessarily directly challenging the dominant narrative. Rather, I want students to be able to think and engage critically with the material and look at various historical perspectives. Question whose memory is being used and for what reason. Ask about and engage the silent memories and narratives suppressed by the dominant, and oftentimes, politically-motivated narrative.

The lessons may not come out the way I imagined the first time, but it's the path I must continue on and improve as I move forward as a history teacher.

I want to share this quote, which is one of favorites, that comes from Arif Dirlik, a historian on modern China. He passed in 2017 and was my mentor's mentor.

"If the historian has one obligation, it is to engage in a dialogue with as many memories as possible. What is inexcusable is to privilege some memories over others and, at worst, to render individual memories and experiences into a substitute for historical understanding"
Arif Dirlik

I reflect on this quote periodically and use it as a centerpiece whenever I lesson plan.

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