Hajra Saeed, BHP Teacher
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.
“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.