If you loved History in school, you probably shouldn’t teach it. The same is true for the other subjects. The problem is that most of our students don’t love our subjects. If the point is to win them over, to get them interested, then it’s helpful to remember what it felt like before you cared. If you learned to love History in school, and remember what brought you around, good for you. If not, consider your longstanding interest a hazard.
The same is generically true for schools and teachers. Lots of people who teach are also people for whom school was an affirming place. If you did your homework, went to your classes, paid attention, learned stuff and demonstrated that fact with regular and predictable success, that’s awesome. If that made you want to make school a career, that’s also a hazard.
One of the ways that love of a subject screws you up is that it gets you to remember a lot of it. History teachers end up knowing a ton of history, because they love it, and because they practice it like crazy. Even if our students loved History as much as we do, they’d never learn and remember it the way we do. We do those units and lessons, read those documents and textbooks, over and over again. Even our most successful students get one shot.
Marketers and Dog Trainers
Marketers, unlike teachers, spend a lot of time thinking about how to convince people to want what they’re selling. What would it be like if teachers spent more time thinking like marketers? I half-joke with rookie teachers that there are only two essential books everyone new to the profession must read: Cesar’s Way on classroom management and Made to Stick on lesson planning. Be the pack leader, and sell through stories.
Our students will forget most of what we teach them. Some of that forgetting will happen very quickly. What if we planned for that? Focusing on skills and habits of mind, which we can practice over and over until they become close to automatic, is a sensible strategy. It’s not enough, though. Teaching a story that kids can visualize and feel gives them the frame for learning more. It makes the content necessary for getting from novice to advanced beginner available to them when they need it. Put those together: teach them how to learn stories, then tell them a good one. Practice it. Then your students will be ready and able to do history. Some of them might even come to love it.