A Shared Struggle and Journey

Amber Bishop
Big History Teacher, 10th and 11th Grade
Ypsilanti, MI

I was introduced to Big History by attending an informational meeting and reading about it online. I was a little intimidated by the science component. I was convinced I was teaching science. After attending the information meeting, I was invited to the annual summit where I quickly realized that I wasn’t teaching science but the story of our existence. I was both excited and anxious about teaching Big History. Anxious because of all the components of implementing a new curriculum and subject material I wasn’t familiar with. By far one of my biggest fears about teaching Big History was teaching a history class rich with science. When I heard I would be teaching about the Big Bang, chemistry, the formation of stars and elements I instantly panicked. I am no science teacher. This is a subject I always deemed myself bad in and an area that I hadn’t visited since my sophomore year in high school (a long time ago).

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After sitting in my fear for a bit and attending the BHP Summit I realized what was at the center of my fear: looking stupid or not proficient as a teacher to both my students and parents. As a literacy teacher, I regularly share the struggles I had as a student and as a young reader as a way to build trust and community with my students. I wrestled with why I was okay being vulnerable with my students in my literacy class, but felt insecure in doing this with my history students.

Through working with experienced Big History teachers and reading about and familiarizing myself with the curriculum, I gained a new perspective. I gained the perspective that our history is ever changing, how we see things today won’t be the same years from now. As we gain more information and knowledge, our understanding of the universe will grow and change – this is the approach I need to take with the course. I felt more comfortable when I came to realize that I would be teaching the story of our universe by leading my students through eight thresholds that explain the increasing complexity of our universe. These thresholds include how we as humans fit into the story, and get my students thinking about where we go from here.

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I realized two things from this struggle and attending Big History meetings. First, I have to be ready to let go and create a classroom community that is ready to grow together, modeling for my students the process of exploring and learning new material. Second, I learned that this isn’t a science class but a beautiful story of our universe, a narrative as a way to understand existence in a larger story.

I am building a community of learners, including myself. Also, I am not alone. All I have to do is reach out through the BHP Teacher Community, Facebook or email and the community of teachers will help.

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