Teaching History as StoryBy Christopher Zehnder
Of the classes I can recall from high school, among the most tedious was sophomore history. History class with Mr. Faulmann (an alias) was almost invariably the same. On an overhead projector, he would place an outline of the chapter he had assigned us to read and then proceed to read the outline aloud to us. We, the students, were required to copy the outline in our notebooks. That was all. He stuck with the book and only the book. The only variation in this routine came when Mr. Faulmann had to work on track scores (for he was the track coach.) At such times, he assigned us a chapter of our textbook to read, each to himself alone, in class.
I recall feeling a certain frustration with Mr. Faulmann’s procedure. I could not understand, having already read a chapter as homework and understood it, why I had it have it repeated to me in tedious outline form in class. But now, 30 years later, having myself taught both middle and high school history classes, I can somewhat sympathize with my erstwhile pedagogue. It is difficult to teach history, precisely because a student can simply read a good history text and understand the matter by himself. What is left for a teacher to explain in the classroom? This, of course, can make teaching history a simple affair for the pedant who is content just to “cover the material”; but for the teacher who wants history class to be something more than an exercise in the drilling in and regurgitation of facts, the teaching of history can offer a sturdy challenge.
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