Thursday, 3 February 2011

Holocaust Education

On Tuesday 1st February, Richard Hill of Holocaust Education Trust led a seminar at Jordanhill for History and Modern Studies trainee teachers on holocaust education. 

I remember when applying for the PGDE course I attended a local secondary school for some classroom experience to support my application and one of the classes I observed was a second year class. The class were looking at some harrowing images of Holocaust victims and I remember thinking that, firstly, pupils should learn about the Holocaust but secondly, it is a topic which requires sensitivity and careful planning by the teacher as it seems pointless to merely engage 12 or 13 year old through the shock value of upsetting images. It's also interesting to note that the Imperial War Museum does not permit children under 11 to view their Holocaust Exhibition and does not recommend it for children under 14.

The seminar was extremely useful in this regard as Richard highlighted many teaching strategies and activities which I hope to use when on placement. I am also starting an Anne Frank project with 2nd year pupils and was looking for some ideas and inspiration for this and there were some good ideas on that front as well.

The day began with the challenge of coming up with a definition of the Holocaust. There are in fact only 3 official definitions of the Holocaust; one of these comes from the Imperial War Museum which states the Holocaust claimed the lives of 6 million Jews, 'including 1.5m children.' The number of children specifically included in the definition may serve to illustrate the Nazi ideology of wiping out a hated people and ensuring no future generations.

The seminar effectively challenged some preconceptions pupils and, indeed, teachers may have about the Holocaust. Firstly, teachers would be doing a disservice to pupils if it was merely portrayed as genocide of Jews as there were many other groups of victims. Secondly, it is important not to paint Hitler as the sole perpetrator of the Holocaust; pupils should be challenged to assess responsibility. Hitler killed one person- himself. To exterminate millions of people requires actions of many thousands. So who else is to blame? Hitler? Nazi Party? Goebbels? SS? Local police? Industrialists who financially supported Hitler? Train drivers who transported Jews and others to Auschwitz? Ordinary people? 

A challenging activity which never occurred to me before involves re-humanising Jewish victims of the Holocaust. In my own experience of studying the Holocaust, I have seen many images of Jews in camps- they are all of a degrading and humiliating nature and it is easy to forget that these people had ordinary lives before they were transported to camps. "The Pre-war Jewish Life" activity involves pupils studying a number of photographs of Jewish people at home, on holiday, at work and at social events and on the back tells the pupil about the person, the photograph and their fate.

Another activity may be more inspirational for pupils as it looks at those who helped Jews and the varying reasons for this; people such as Oskar Schindler, Corrie Ten Boom, Miep Gies, Henri De Kryger and Wilhelm Hosenfeld. Different reasons for bravely helping Jews may have been religious, circumstantial, ie they just found themselves in a position to help and it was the right thing to do and they were helping their friends.

The case of Hosenfeld led us to discussing the role of film in Holocaust Education and some of the pitfalls; for example accuracy and the graphic nature of some films. In the case of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, the distortions, including the fact that the Jewish boy would immediately have been gassed at the camp as he was 9 (under 15s were immediately gassed as they were unable to work) clearly make the film unsuitable for use in the classroom. It is important also to realise that pupils may come to class armed with this inaccurate knowledge so I will be aware of the need to tackle these preconceptions.

However, The Pianest has the potential to be a brilliant film to use in the classroom and I will watch it again before my next placement to think of classroom activities to help pupils in their learning of Holocaust Education.

If anyone has any ideas on Holocaust Education or the Anne Frank project, feel free to make my life easier and share!!!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Jordanhill School

Today, seven 1st year history pupils from Jordanhill School attended our Pedagogy and Curriculum history tutorial along with the Principal Teacher of history at Jordanhill School, Mrs Claire Wood to lead a session on Collaborative Learning.

I have to say, it was one of the most enjoyable learning experiences I have had at Jordanhill College so far and the pupils were a credit to their school. They had us student teachers do some homework prior to the session- background reading on The Bayeax Tapestry because of which I missed the FA Cup game on the telly! I hope to teach at Jordanhill School one day in the future where I will get my revenge with copious amounts of homework issued to only these pupils every day!

The day began with us being put into groups of 5 and we were to act out a particular scene of our choosing from the Bayeux Tapestry- I think some people in the class should be doing drama rather than history!

After performing for the class and a quick coffee, Mrs Wood delivered a very interesting presentation on Collaborative Learning; I will just share a few of the points that struck a chord with me.

Firstly, with respect to the importance of studying history and its prevalence in the school curriculum; I have worried in the past about its dilution and the obvious knock-on effects to my future employment prospects in teaching. However, rather than get sympathy for this position, Mrs Wood believes it is the fault of history practitioners, including us students, for what seems like an attack on history...and she has a point.

It is not enough for teachers and student teachers to motivate children and young people to value history for intrinsic reasons. We must do more. For example, for every school department to flourish, it needs an uptake of pupils for certificate classes; every pupil will choose their subjects for different reasons. Some might like the department teachers, some because their pals are doing it. Subjects will also be chosen based on what will help pupils get work after school- to earn a living, working to live. As Claire Wood stated today, it is up to myself and fellow student history teachers to be active agents in banging the drum for history as teaching pupils how to live, ie helping to foster in them active citizenship for example.

This cannot just be done in the classroom though and involves bringing history to life for pupils through field trips etc. One such example of this which I will look at in another post is the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) War Memorial at Kelvingrove Park which I am going to visit tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The History Channel

I remember fondly the innocent days of the mid-late 90s before my family got Sky TV and my daily viewing consisted of 'cooncil telly' fare such as Budgie the Little Helicopter, Scotsport, Bullseye, the Hurricanes, Gladiators and (Take the) High Road- quite a mix, I think you'll agree. (now, I look back and wonder why I wanted Sky so much at all!).

But want it I did... for Monday Night Football, the wrestling, Keenan and Kel and The Simpsons mainly. However, I also wanted it for the History Channel. As a teenage geek, I remember watching a documentary about Hitler at my friend's house, probably after Ultimate Warrior v Hulk Hogan or Raw is War or something equally sad and I think it must have been the first time I had learned anything substantial about him...Hitler that is, not Hulk Hogan. I always included that channel in my 'aww, how amazing would it be to get Sky in?' talks with my brother.

Anyway, after many months and years of desperate pleading, we got Sky in...probably because my Mum discovered the Sky package contained QVC or something...until I flopped at my Standard Grade exams as a result of watching too much fitba, apparently. Anyway, it was back to terrestrial tv for a while as punishment and to ensure I did better next time; I grew up and realised exams are actually more important than the Last Word with Andy Gray on a Sunday night.

But back to the point of this post which aye, the History Channel. The reality of it is quite disappointing I think and should be re-named the Nazi channel due to it's devotion to all things Nazi: Nazis in Colour, Nazis in Black and White, Hitler's Maw, Hitler's Granny. Give us a break and put something else on!

In fairness, there are other programmes which don't contain 'Nazi' in the title but these also tend to be about the Second World War. I can't remember the last really good programme I watched on the History channel....I watched BBC's A History of Scotland with Neil Oliver last year on and there was a great programme on STV about Scottish International Brigaders in the Spanish Civil War based on a book called 'Homage to Caledonia' by Daniel Gray. Can the History Channel not cast the net a bit wider and put programmes like that on?

I realise the programmes have to appeal to the general public and so war features prominently in the schedule but why does it always have to be the Nazis and the Second World War? It seems like the History Channel is putting on the same programmes I watched as a teenage geek back in the 90s. Surely there is more to history than 1939-45?

So, what else do we want to see historians?

Friday, 14 January 2011

Into the Wild

Hello. Welcome to histoandy blog. I'm a PGDE student at Jordanhill College. I've just started a module called ICT: Children, Computers and Creativity and my first task is to get a blog up and running. So, simple to start- What I learned this week!

What I learned this week: the story of Christopher McCandliss.
The moral I took from his story: always be prepared.

I watched the film, Into the Wild, for the first time this week which follows the adventures of a young American law graduate called Christopher McCandless who travelled America and tragically died in Alaskan wilderness.

Christopher graduated from college and rather than pursue a professional career as his father wanted, Christopher donated the remaining $25,000 of his college fund to Oxfam International and travelled America under the name Alexander Supertramp, turning his back on civilisation and his family as well

The film follows Supertramp through Arizona and South Dakota as he experiences many great moments, some with people he meets and some on his own as a lone wolf.

At the end of the film, Supertramp dies alone during his Alaskan Odysey, an experience he had long dreamed of. He died of starvation. I am now being urged by David (tutor!) to hurry up and finish this post so can others complete the story of Supertramp please...