When I think about my field and the issues that face it, I simply think of student interest. History is not exactly the most invigorating of subjects at any level, much less at a secondary level. The sad truth that current history teachers as well as future ones like myself have to face is the fact that there students often times do not show the same zest for our subject that they do for some of the others in school. Unfortunately, many students take the "why do I have to learn about something that already happened?" approach instead of taking their history classes as an opportunity to learn about the past as a way of better understanding how we got where we are now, and perhaps where we will be going in the future. The fact that history is a study of the past is concrete, but students have to realize the opportunity the subject brings to develop critical thinking; critical thinking that can help them in their academic futures. However, the purpose of this post is not to place all blame on students. Kids will be kids, and their daily history class odds are is not going to be the greatest part of their week. We, as history teachers, must accept that fact for what it is. In fact, I believe the "issue" in my field goes both ways. On one side are the students and their unfortunate lack of interest, but on the other side are us, the teachers.
One of the best weapons in a teacher's arsenal is the concept of differentiated instruction. Obviously, this helps any teacher regardless of their subject matter I believe history teachers must turn this idea from a simple concept into a reality. In my personal experiences in history courses thus far, it has been almost exclusively power point lecture, which is fine if the teacher puts in the work, and has the personality to carry the class. Current and future history teachers have to know the challenge ahead of them, and attack it head on by incorporating new methods of presenting the past. We must present the past in a contemporary, and entertaining way, as a means for our students to better retain the knowledge they need. Something like the occasional video, skit, group project or even debate can not only force students to see multiple views on a historical figure or issue, but also raise their excitement towards learning more about the topic outside of class every day. So much of history seems to be straight forward cut and dry; it is our job as teachers to change things up from time to time. History does not have to be a boring course which students dread attending on a daily basis. It doesn't have to be, but we must make the effort to diversify and enhance our instruction so that there will be a group of engaged and eager learners in front of us each day.
I personally love the subject that I plan to teach, but it does bother me when I say my major to friends of mine and see their eyes roll back in their head. Maybe it sould bother me, maybe it shouldn't but I do not have to justify my career or subject matter to my friends. My job is to convey my knowledge of history to my future students,and hopefully cultivate a passion for the subject I love within a few of them. I respected teachers I had in the past that really put in the effort to make their classes different, and I plan on honoring my teachers by doing the same for my students. I truly believe that ending this issue begins with us. If we take our jobs seriously as we should, our instruction will improve, and our students interest and engagement will increase as well. I have a great chance to lead by example as a teacher, and if I show passion and love for history, hopefully my students will take something valuable from my class. I'm not saying that every one of my students has to become a history teacher, but at the very least I hope their respect for history and understanding of it is more profound. To end with a cliche, "you can't really know where you're going until you know where you've been."