Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nation building 101~

I'm expected to "teach" the time span between early civilizations in the New World-- the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas-- to the Civil War. In 180 days. This is mandated by the Massachusetts Department of Education.

So . . . sigh!

The presidential primary elections make the perfect springboard for looking back to understand why we have the form of government we do today. So I jumped ahead in the curriculum a couple hundred years to just after the Revolutionary War when the Constitution was written, the Bill of Rights argued over, the issue of slavery brushed aside to assure ratification, and of course, George Washington's acceptance of the presidency.

Two girls asked to put on a skit, something they'd prepared privately in the big supply closet during recess. Each pretended to be a candidate for president, and took turns reading their campaign promises.

At the end of class, one of my fifth graders stood at my desk, arms loaded with books ready to go to lunch.

"What's up, Josh?" I asked.

"I was thinking, and, well, a candidate could promise to do anything, but that doesn't mean he'd be able to." He paused. "Does it?"

He looked into my eyes, waiting for my reply. I confirmed his thinking, and praised his astuteness. He beamed and left.

We've returned to the 1500's curriculum-wise, but today I shared a "current event." The birth of a new nation: Kosovo.

"It's the newest country," I said. "Just born." I reminded them of our revolutionary beginning, and gave a brief overview of Kosovo's move toward independence: war, the resolutions from the organization in charge, the final declaration, and lastly, that some countries supported the independence and some didn't.

Miles said, "They've just begun and already they have enemies! And allies." He shook his head.

Mike had a different thought. "The kids must not have social studies class," he said.

"Why? What do you mean."?

"Well, they're so new. They have no history," he said.

Ahhh, the perfect segue to remind him of the long history of the Americas-- even before it "belonged" to us.

"Oh, yeah," he said.

I am so going to miss teaching.
"Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them."---George Santayana


Janice Thomson said...

Children are so straight-forward and untainted by prejudice. I can see why you will miss them tremendously.

leslie said...

Yes, it's moments like those that really make you realize what a wonderful profession it is. And I'm really enjoying tutoring a grade 7 student three days a week now. The time just flies by. But go back into the classroom? Never! You'll feel that way one day, too.

Anonymous said...

Great picture. Frozen, waiting for the thaw.

You're a middle school teacher? A fifth grader is in middle school there?

I must be getting older than I thought.

But your post gives me hope for the future.


rain said...

I hope my kids have a teacher like you someday - without the president stuff :0) On that note, tho' I am always amazed at the long long process of electing a government in the US. I think I will happliy keep our "three week" rule.

I have been so busy I missed you blogaversary. Congrats!! I'm looking forward to another year of wonderful vignettes.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

It is easy to teach history but it is difficult to teach history conscientiously and to teach it well. I admire how you try to make history come alive. The independence of Kosovo for example would probably make lesser beings run in fear but challenging the youth to think issues through are the only hope for a better tomorrow.

sc morgan said...

A nice post, Ruth. I love the idea of Kosovo not having any enemies because they are, after all, a "new" country. You are far more patient than I am.

Lisa said...

Are you SURE you want to retire? ;)
Wonderful post, Ruth, and I LOVE that picture! Wow.

Wanda said...

I would go back to 5th grade if you will be my teacher!!!
How they will miss YOU!!!

Tere said...

I am sure there will be many reminders in the coming months that will cause you to rethink your decision to retire. I can tell by your stories that you are a good teacher. I hope you have been a mentor to others so they can pass it on.

Barbara said...

Kids are so smart!

Bob Sanchez said...

I have a feeling that the Massachusetts school system will be diminished by your retirement. You sound both perceptive and dedicated.

Meanwhile, you are some kind of photographer. The gravestone and flag encased in ice is just beautiful.