There’s a really good chance that next year I’ll be teaching at least one strand of history that I have little or no experience teaching. Because of the way scheduling works out this summer, I’ll probably have a couple of my normal social studies classes as well as a Texas or US history course. I’ve taught Texas history before, but it has been a few years now. With Texas history being the most likely subject for me to teach next year, I decided that some of my summer reading should be to brush up on my Texas history.
Before school was out, I printed off a copy of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) from the TEA and just read over what I’m expected to cover in my classroom next year. Just rereading this document helped me rediscover all the things I’ve taught in the past about Texas history. As I read, I realized that my main shortcoming the last time I taught this material was that I didn’t emphasize the people the state would like me to cover. The concepts of the material I think I did really well covering though. I decided to really emphasize the people this upcoming year and made a point to remember what they did for Texas history.
My next step was to dust off my old Texas history texts that I constantly referenced a few years ago. My favorite of them was called Passionate Nation by James L. Haley. The book was recommended to me by a colleague who taught Texas history with me a few years ago. The book does a great job of putting history in understandable terms and creating a narrative story of what happened in Texas at that time. The main character is Texas, so they don’t go into a lot of the causes for exploration but rather focus on the people and places of Texas. As I’ve read through the book, I’ve been highlighting the people and their stories from my list of TEKS so that when I get to that spot in history class next year I can be sure to emphasize the stories of these people.
Our department has also chosen to really do our best to link US history and Texas history as well as help the US history teachers out by trying to really teach the civil war well so that the kids will come in with a really great knowledge of that landmark era of US history. One of the ways I’m going to try and link these two histories this upcoming year is through the idea of a love story. I went to a training this year where they talked about US history as the “greatest love story ever told” where the states all fall in love with each other, develop a relationship, get married, attempt to get divorced but the judge says they must stay together and work it out. The divorce is the Civil War era and the working it out is the Reconstruction Era. I really like that theme throughout the story of US and Texas history, so I’m going to see if it resonates with the kids. It could be a really powerful idea for connecting knowledge if it is used by both Texas and US history classes in back to back years.
I really love history and I really want my students to love history. It breaks my heart when I talk with students or adults that had a really bad experience with a history class and ended up hating history from then on. Hopefully I can do my part in creating students that love history and want to better understand the great history of our state and country.