YOU DO YOU: MY FIRST YEAR TEACHING BIG HISTORY

Hajra Saeed, BHP Teacher
California, USA

Last August, I sat in a coffee shop with a teacher friend, stressing about what I had gotten myself into by switching from middle school to high school to teach a Big History pilot class for our district. She gave me the advice I needed to hear: “You do you.” That statement has carried me through my most exciting year of teaching in 16 years.

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“You do you,” came to mean a lot of things to me this past year. As we began our journey through Threshold 1 through Threshold 3, I realized that it’s okay not to know everything, and that it’s best to turn over discussions to my students when they’re the experts. I became comfortable with admitting that I didn’t need to be the expert of every discipline, and encouraged my students to investigate until they found articles and videos that enabled us to discover answers together. My friend’s advice meant that although I might not be the chief scientist in the room, I could certainly provide a critical historical lens. In a Lesson 2.2 video, my students and I learned from astrophysicist Jana Levin that even scientists don’t know the answers to everything, and we embarked together on a path of discovery.

When I didn’t understand how to implement an activity from the curriculum, I turned to the BHP Online Teacher Community on Yammer. I had discovered that “doing me” meant I didn’t fully understand how to best implement BHP that first year. The people on Yammer were amazing! When I posted questions, they immediately replied. When we reached the “Evolution and Faith” article in Unit 5, I posted on Yammer about some concerns I had with the article. Immediately, teachers offered up advice on how they delivered the lesson. One teacher even sent me a research paper on the topic that she had written. Here’s a link to our conversation.

Big History is not just a journey for the students; it is for the teacher as well. I have finally learned to appreciate science, including the study of rocks! I’ve learned to rekindle the lifelong learner in me, and in turn have been able to motivate my students to question and research. After all, isn’t that what school is all about?

About the author: Hajra Saeed teaches at Sato Academy of Math and Science, a STEM school focusing on biomedical science and engineering in Long Beach, CA. She’s been teaching for 16 years and has taught Big History since 2016. Hajra’s four sections (about 100 students) meet twice a week for 95 minutes and once a week for 45 minutes.

FULL STEAM AHEAD

Brittney Morrissey, BHP Teacher
Washington, USA

My journey with Big History began a year ago when I attended the Seattle cluster meeting. Not knowing what to expect, I was skeptical of this thing called Big History. What is Big History? How big is big? Is there going to be too much science stuff?

I’m now excited, although a little nervous—this upcoming school year, our entire ninth-grade team is teaching Big History as our world history course! I have a lot of homework to do.

Enter: Teaching Big History!

The Teaching Big History online training course was where I turned to start. It provides an overview of the BHP course content, activities, and resources. This course overview immediately highlights the fact that students will be analyzing science and scientific events through a historical lens. I feel reassured — my history class will not become a science class!

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Teaching Big History even includes BHP teacher tips, tricks, and planning guides! As part of my homework, I quickly pored over seasoned Big History teachers’ individual planning guides, noting how and where they alter specific units to meet their needs. I snuck a peek at Bridgette O’Connor’s Semester Course Plan, which helped me plan for a more world-history focused spin of the course. I realized I could pepper in my own extensions and material—like stuff focused on the Renaissance and Reformation—to meet local standards. Yay, flexibility!

Looking ahead, my team is working to plan, plan, and plan next school year. The online training has helped us realize just how many wonderful activities there are. Although these activities help students’ reading, writing, and critical thinking skills, we cannot possibly do them all! We’re currently digging into Unit 1 and evaluating what we’ll keep and what we’ll skip. We’re trying to maintain enough flexibility to allow for the inevitable assemblies, fire drills, holidays, snow days, and other unplanned and unforeseeable events that pop up during the school year.

I am truly excited to dive into Big History with my diverse group of learners. From what I’ve seen so far, Big History allows students to “do” the history—directing investigations, problem solving, and critically analyzing each other’s ideas. I am so excited to guide a classroom without “right” answers and to leave #snopocalypse 2016–2017 behind!

About the author: Brittney Morrissey has been teaching ninth grade world history for four years. The upcoming 2017/2018 school year will be her first year teaching Big History. She will teach Big History to four different classes, reaching about 120 ninth-grade students. She will meet with each class daily for 50 minutes.