What does Facing History look like in action? Look into Calee Prindle’s classroom and you’ll see it come to life. Calee is an English Language Arts teacher and an advisor at the Facing History School (FHS) in New York City. FHS is a founding member of The Facing History Innovative Schools Network – a connected group of more than 80 schools that embrace Facing History's core themes as essential to their mission.
Ebony Davis, a Facing History Teacher Leader and Facing History Leadership Academy member from Miami, Florida is highlighted on the Teacher Practice Network as part of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd. She reflects on how Facing History has helped her grow as an educator:
Winter is a great time to slow down, indulge in eating hearty food and curl up with a book that can transport you to another world, all from the comfort of your couch. So go on an adventure this winter. Hit the library, stop by the independent bookstore on the corner, toss a few items in your AmazonSmile shopping cart (when you do, a portion of your purchase can go directly to Facing History), or start downloading to your e-reader. Hand-picked by Tracy O'Brien, Director of Facing History and Ourselves’ library, these titles are guaranteed to transport, challenge, and inspire readers of all ages.
This is not the blog post I wanted to write. How do you respond when lives have been lost? Paris, Chicago, San Bernardino. And what about the lives lost which don’t make national news?
Walking into the metro station earlier this week my husband and I started talking with one of the station workers. He was holding his breath as he walked upstairs with us – hoping not to find the dead body of a homeless man, as had happened the day before.
Are we, like this station worker, holding our breath to not have a dead body to deal with today?
The roots of violence and injustice are complex and mired in societal and political specifics around the globe.
Facing History and Ourselves teaches that rigorous study of history can help us make choices for a better future. Each history has its own lessons, but all of them give us a platform from which to ask fundamental questions, in communities and in schools: how did identity impact the choices people made in the past? How do we, today, engage with each other across difference?
In a Facing History and Ourselves classroom, asking students to question and think critically is challenging every day, but especially when we read headlines about violence in communities close to home. During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, a video showing the 2014 murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was released on the same day that Mr. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder. Facing History offers essential questions to consider and strategies for helping students process the myriad thoughts, feelings, and opinions they are experiencing.
In small ways, each day, Facing History and Ourselves is fostering positive changes in our world, with lessons that show students their choices have consequences. We call it choosing to participate. By exploring individuals’ choices in history, our students discover that mass violence, bigotry, and prejudice are not inevitable. Understanding their power in their own lives, they discover the power to act on behalf of others, in ways large and small.
In this age of smartphones, social media, and text messaging, I sometimes ask myself when was the last time I sat down to actually talk and listen to someone. I wonder how often my students actually engage in face-to-face conversations, especially even more with someone who is older than them.
Then twice in one week I stumbled across The Great Thanksgiving Listen, first on my drive home listening to NPR and then during my Twitter check-in before bed. What was this Great Listen project? I wanted to know more.
“The movement to end war and mass atrocities spans centuries, peoples, and ideologies”
I became interested in international criminal law and genocide prevention through Facing History and Ourselves’ founder Margot Stern Strom, for whom I interned during my gap year between high school and college. Margot introduced me to the thoughts of Benjamin Ferencz, the only surviving prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials. As I read through Ben’s articles and books, I internalized his call to action. Margot and Ben’s approach to the world resonated with my heart, my deepest sense of human dignity, and my own moral reasoning as to how we must learn to get along with each other as one human community.
What do Facing History and Ourselves classrooms really accomplish? Where do our students go after graduation? And how does our approach actually change their lives? We find one answer in the story of a Dominican teenager who immigrated to New York City less than a decade ago. Luis Santos—like so many youth today—fled violent rioting in the streets of the Dominican Republic after it took the life of one of his best friends. Santos found himself attending the Facing History School in Hell's Kitchen, NYC.