As a history teacher, I often struggle to help my students see the relevance of the past and understand the power it can wield in helping them to navigate the present. With this in mind, I began to plan my unit on the Armenian Genocide. This genocide occurred almost 100 years ago under the cloak of WWI in 1915, when the Ottoman government embarked upon the destruction of its Armenian population. I decided that to give voice to this genocide beyond readings and documentaries, I would invite a guest speaker from the Armenian community.
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Two years ago, I was offered a few teaching positions at different schools after having a number of interviews within my board. One of these was at Nelson Mandela Park PS, an inner city school in Regent Park in downtown Toronto. After a little debate and reflection, I knew in my heart, I wanted to be part of a school whose namesake was one of the greatest political leaders of our time, a man whom I regarded as one of my personal heroes. It was also a homecoming for me as I did my student teaching and also volunteered in the Regent Park community. I knew choosing to teach at a school named after Nelson Mandela was an honour, and that my teaching practice would have to reflect the values of this great man.
Rob Flosman is assistant head of history at Waterdown District High School in Hamilton. This year he is writing for our sister blog InterFacing. I don't want to give away all the details about his incredible project, the goal of which is to make history personal, relevant, and alive for his students and community, because he says it so well himself! With the support of a 2013 Margot Stern Strom Innovation Grant from Facing History and Ourselves, Rob is in the process of creating a truly incredible legacy for his school and community. Click here to read his first blog on the early stages of his project.
When there is injustice in our world, do we stand idly by and watch it happen? When we hear stories of innocent citizens being targeted by laws meant to oppress and destroy people, do we act? When do you speak up? When should you care? Should you act when it only concerns you?
Our group spent a good bit of time walking around Warsaw and seeing its sites. The first thing to realize about Warsaw is that it is an old looking but newly constructed city. Our guides said that the Germans destroyed at least half the city when they captured it in 1939. The destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 after the suppression of the Rebellion accounted for 10 per cent more destruction and the failed uprising of August - October 1944 destroyed another 25 per cent and depopulated what had been a city of 1.3 million. We saw a film of the destruction in the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising and the visual record is a stunning one. Entire neighborhoods were obliterated and less than 1000 lived amidst the rubble. Two hundred thousand Poles, some of them Jewish survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, lost their lives--many simply shot randomly on street corners (marked throughout the city).
This summer, Jack Lipinsky, along with 10 other Facing History and Ourselves teachers from Jewish day schools around North America, participated in a week-long study trip to central Poland. The trip was led by Facing History’s Director of Jewish Education Jan Darsa. It was sponsored by Polish non-profit The Forum for Dialogue Among Nations. His experiences, in particular his visit to the town of Pińczów, impacted him greatly.
I don't know much about the history of my dad’s family. I used to think that this was because there was not much known. I'm beginning to think differently. What I know about my dad’s side of the family is that my Zaida (grandpa) came in 1920 from what was then Ukraine (now Belarus) as a refugee via a camp in Romania. My Baba (grandma) came in 1914 as an immigrant with her aunt’s family from Ukraine, near Kiev. The legend of the family is that they were on the last boat before World War 1 broke out. My Zaida was a refugee from the same war that my Baba narrowly avoided. I know that after marrying, my Zaida served in World War II before starting a family. He had three children; two daughters and my father. There weren’t too many other details that I knew, especially about the family pre-World War II.
As my students build their journals, ideas of injustice and intolerance flood their pages. Yet this month, the pens are down and students of Genocide are standing up and speaking out. Mathew Jones A.K.A “TESTAMENT” provided Waterdown students with the tools and the inspiration to put their thoughts into Spoken Word Art.