Doers and Makers of History | Hooray For Monday

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. Prefer audio? Listen to the Hooray For Monday podcast! Available on your favorite platforms here.

February 19, 2024

By Jenna Fournel, Director of Teaching and Learning

It’s Black History Month, Monday is President’s Day, and the news of the world feels like every minute is textbook history in the making. This made us wonder: What is it like to be a history teacher right now?

For an answer, we turned to our colleague Cosby Hunt, who has been teaching the subject to students and teachers for 30 years.

You can listen to our full interview in today’s podcast — and here are a few highlights below.

Easy access to information helps to connect the dots. In an era where students can pull up any information they like with a voice command, Cosby noted that the connections between past and present are more evident to his students. “Maybe even in the era of TikTok, students are able to see how what has happened in the past affects their lives now, maybe in a way that previous generations didn’t.”

Choice makes those connections more personal. As part of his US History course, Cosby’s students choose a topic that they study independently and in-depth for the duration of the course. As they deepen their learning about this topic, they develop a personal connection to that facet of history. He said that this year, “all of their personal projects have to be connected to the theme of Turning Points in History.” He’s seen students make meaningful connections to everything from the East L.A. school walkouts of the 1960s to Jackie Robinson.

“Doing” history engages learners in the process. Each year Cosby also teaches an afterschool course called Real World History which immerses students in the work of historians as they learn to conduct oral histories and serve in internships at cultural institutions throughout the city. He says his students “appreciate that they are the doers of history . . . and their work, their scholarship, becomes part of a large collection of oral histories that goes in the DC public library.”

Learning about the past builds our confidence in navigating the present. When we asked Cosby what he still loves about teaching 30 years in, he said without hesitation, “I think that teaching is a way to help young people develop confidence.” Exploring the ups and downs of those who came before us provides a road map for what can be possible in our lifetimes. In his current curriculum, he finds hope in the opportunity to teach students about the many movements that led to significant changes that impact our lives today.

Perhaps this is the perfect lens through which to view our role as teachers right now.

How can we approach our curriculum and our connections to life beyond our classroom walls in ways that build our students’ confidence as doers, and makers of history?

For additional insights, resources, and information on Inspired Teaching teacher and youth programming, subscribe to the Hooray For Monday newsletter!

Hooray For Monday is an award-winning weekly publication by Center for Inspired Teaching, an independent nonprofit organization that invests in and supports teachers. Inspired Teaching provides transformative, improvisation-based professional learning for teachers that is 100% engaging – intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Our mission is to create radical change in the school experience – away from compliance and toward authentic engagement.

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