Kaitlin Smith

Kaitlin Smith is a Marketing and Communications Writer for Facing History and Ourselves.

Recent Posts

5 New Books on Native American History, Life, and Resistance

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on November 3, 2021

During Native American Heritage Month this November, educators are reminded of the importance of engaging students in exploring the histories and contemporary realities of Native American peoples all year. Yet one of the barriers to doing this well and with confidence is not having had sufficient exposure to this material as part of one’s own classroom education. There are a host of books and other materials that we can turn to in the ongoing learning and unlearning process that this task demands, and this learning is something we are engaged in at Facing History, too. 

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Topics: Indigenous, Native Americans

Learning from GLSEN

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on October 29, 2021

Have you ever wondered how Gay-Straight Alliances came to be? Though it may seem unremarkable that students can participate in Gay-Straight Alliances in a growing number of schools today, this was not the case until relatively recently. Led by gay educator and GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings, the movement to create networks of support within K-12 schools that affirm the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth is one that points to the importance of solidarity and collaboration between teachers and students. In addition to a powerful story of bravery and solidarity, the origins and current work of GLSEN also offer rich insights for educators and administrators interested in supporting their LGBTQ+ students more effectively.

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Topics: LGBTQ

A New Type of Media Literacy

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on October 28, 2021

In a fast-moving information landscape that is being transformed by image manipulation tools and deep fakes, the work of helping students cultivate media literacy is an increasingly complex task. U.S. Media Literacy Week during the last week of October is a time dedicated to underscoring the idea that media literacy must be a central aim of education and urging teachers to implement relevant lesson plans that help students learn how to sift fact from fiction. Conceptualizing media literacy as exclusively focused on the facts appears to be giving way to a broader definition, however, as the debate over the nature and impact of social media platforms such as Facebook intensifies. Beyond the important question of how students discern whether the information they access is factual, a host of other concerning questions are emerging about how the very tools we use to access information may be unraveling our ability to know, think, and simply relate to others in the world—particularly for adolescents. As lawmakers attempt to hold tech leaders accountable through an ongoing series of congressional hearings, a network of former tech leaders has come together to help all of us—and particularly our young people—forge more healthy relationships with these platforms through behavior change.

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Topics: Social Media, media literacy

The Problem of Archival Silences

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on October 25, 2021

Have you ever wondered how history itself is made? Though we often talk about individuals and groups “making history” by making certain types of contributions to society, less frequently do we talk about the complex process through which historians construct their accounts of the past. During American Archives Month this October, we have a chance to explore the central role of archives in shaping our perceptions of the past, the various forces that determine the materials and voices included in a given archive, and how this insight can enrich the way we think about historical materials and even produce our own.

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Topics: Memory, Holocaust, History, resistance, Black History, primary sources

5 Ways to Teach With Primary Sources

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on October 21, 2021

How do we help students make sense of the past? During American Archives Month this October and every month, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration suggests that archival materials—also known as primary sources—ought to be an important part of this equation. At Facing History, we agree; primary sources materials are a key component of our pedagogical approach and our classroom resources. In historical study, the term “primary sources” refers to historical evidence produced contemporaneous to the time captured or described in the source. These sources may take the form of images, letters, diaries, speeches, audio recordings, video recordings, and more. Selecting primary sources and making them accessible to students can be challenging, but there are numerous benefits to teaching with them. 

In addition to exposing students to secondary sources that offer their own analyses of these historical objects—sources like textbooks, for example—inviting students into the world of the historical subject through primary sources is an excellent way to build their capacities for critical thinking, expand their understanding of a given historical moment, and humanize the historical actors in question. This is not only important for promoting academic understanding of a historical time period but it also has the potential to help the student understand their own small actions as those that have the potential to play a role in history as it is narrated in the future.

We invite educators to check out these 5 time-tested teaching strategies designed to incorporate analysis of primary sources into educator lesson plans:

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Topics: History, primary sources, archives

Latinx vs. Hispanic: A History of Terms

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on October 15, 2021

“This is what our teachers must understand: that language is never neutral.
That no matter how skilled we can become in understanding the complexities of language,
we cannot forsake the liberating or oppressive power of language.”

Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970)

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Topics: Latinx History

5 Reads for Teachers on LGBTQIA+ History

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on October 12, 2021

Each October, LGBTQ History Month offers an important opportunity for educators to ensure that LGBTQIA+ histories are getting their due in the classroom all year long. But before any educator can meaningfully embark upon that task, they must commit to their own ongoing learning about LGBTQIA+ histories. History as we understand it is in a constant state of expansion and retelling and, as a result, all history teachers gain from maintaining the mindset of the student even as they teach.

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Topics: LGBTQ

5 Virtual Events for Indigenous Peoples' Day

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on October 7, 2021

As a result of the vision and tireless mobilization of a large network of Indigenous activists across the United States, many communities now celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of or alongside Columbus Day on the second Monday of October each year. In addition to being an occasion that invites a deeper reckoning with the violence at the heart of the nation’s founding, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is also a time to witness and engage with the resilience, insights, vision, and ongoing struggles of Indigenous peoples in contemporary America. Alongside the array of local and regional gatherings that may be taking place near you, there are many rich virtual opportunities for learning, unlearning, and celebration on and around Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Consider the following 5 free virtual eventsfilm screenings, panel discussions, and educational presentationsdesigned to engage participants in the work of bringing Indigenous experiences and truths from margin to center.

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Topics: American History, Indigenous History, Indigenous Peoples' Day

10 Must Watch Films on LGBTQIA+ History

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on October 6, 2021

LGBTQ History Month each October offers an important opportunity to expand our knowledge of LGBTQIA+ histories and ensure that they are being addressed in the classroom. One great way to tackle the task of expanding our own knowledge as educators is to turn to the medium of film. Below is a list of 10 documentary films and television series that we are diving into here at Facing History and that we invite you to explore alongside us. 

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Topics: LGBTQ

Facing History From Day One: An Interview with New Haven Academy

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on September 30, 2021

I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Greg Baldwin and Meredith Gavrin, the husband-wife team who co-founded the Connecticut school New Haven Academy in 2003. 

Recently profiled in The Wall Street Journal as an excellent example of purpose-driven schools, New Haven Academy is a highly innovative public high school that serves a diverse student population in a state where disrupting school segregation has remained a challenge into the 21st century. 

In this interview, Baldwin and Gavrin discuss their path to founding the school, the challenges they faced, and the vital role that Facing History’s targeted support, professional development, and classroom resources have played in shaping their distinctive school culture, curriculum, and pedagogy since their inception.

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Topics: Social and Emotional Learning, Explorations, Whole School Work

At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you're engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.

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Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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