It’s no secret that Big History teachers are a reflective bunch. This plays out most often in the online BHP teacher community, where folks were recently discussing responses to the question: “What advice would you want to give your August self, prior to starting your BHP journey this year?” Here are some responses. We invite you to join the conversation here and add your own!
It was actually a relief to tell students I didn’t know the answer. I spent a lot of time preparing to teach Big History, trying to learn as much of the science content as possible. Second day of class, a student asked me a question I didn’t know—as a matter of fact, I almost didn’t understand the question. I had to admit in front of everyone that I didn’t know the answer. It felt good and created one of the greatest classroom environments I’ve experienced. The role of lead learner is one I’ve embraced. – Kathy Hays
The best piece of advice I received was to not obsess over knowing all of the science for Units 2-6. It is much more meaningful to learn with the kids— it’s not realistic to become a science teacher overnight. I wish I had told myself in August to start planning for ways to teach vocab and writing to lower-level learners. I’ve got a tough group this year who have low skills and I would have loved to think about scaffolding strategies in August instead of scrambling now. – Jenny Holloway
Different situation here in Australia, where we’re wrapping up for the year and looking forward to our summer holiday. I’m constantly in awe of all the amazing educators here. The knowledge, willingness to help and quality of resources are amazing. What would I tell an earlier version of me teaching BH? Don’t be shy about asking for help. – Melissa Brady
If I could give my first-year self a piece of advice, it would be that it’s okay to not have the answer for every question a student poses. When you step outside of your comfort teaching area (for me that would be teaching science-related material), it’s good to let students know that we are on a learning journey together, as it’s impossible to know the intricacies of every discipline that is included in the course. When students learn this, they realize a few things: first, that you are human; and second, that this course will open up so many questions that they can ask and that some of those questions might not have definitive answers, even from experts in the field, and that’s ok too. – Bridgette O’Connor
Don’t stress the small stuff! I often stress myself out wondering if I’m hitting everything I need to for the particular group I’m teaching that year. Every group is different, and I want to make sure it’s an awesome experience for everyone. But it usually takes me a couple of months into the school year before I chill and remember that I don’t have to pack days full of heavy, dense material. Sometimes just asking the right questions and allowing the discussion to flow is exactly what my kids need. –– Jami McLing
Just be amazed at all the new things you are learning, and share that enthusiasm with the kids. The coolest thing for me, is whenever something new is found, discovered, debated from current events that ties into something we have already covered. It reinforces that this is as much current events as it is “history”—Big or otherwise. Continual opportunities for claim testers. When we talk about chemistry, I like to remind students that my last chemistry class was 45 years ago; theirs was 45 minutes ago. Lead learner is absolutely the way to approach it. And rely on your science colleagues (if you trust them!). I’m always surprised at how much actual science-related content we cover in BHP that is not covered in a science class; like “Where do elements come from?” – Mike Burns