Trying To Teach Empathy

Well it looks like Nick and I both want to talk about a similar topic today.

For those of you who don’t know, I am studying not only to be a historian, but to also teach.  This year I am engaging in my Junior Field Experience.  It is exciting to step from beyond just observations, and actually getting to be involved in the classroom atmosphere.  I am one of two Messiah “pre-student teachers” in the class, and tomorrow the two of us will be teaching our first lesson.

We are going to talk about some Carnegie and Rockefeller.  A question that we are posing early to the students asks if our students think Carnegie and Rockefeller are “robber barons” or “captains of industry.”  Then my co and I will engage in background knowledge about the two industrialists, and have the students give their opinions.  Our goal here is to have the students engage in history (and I’ll talk about our next activity after this point).  We want them to grab the information that we give them, and have them think about the historical significance of these figures.  We are going to talk about them in relation to their own time so that they can determine how these figures were seen in their own time.  My co and I realize this is a fairly daunting task — teaching freshmen to look at the past and “bracket” off our own present conceptions.

Then as a form of assessment, we have assigned our students specific industrialists to research.  They have to answer some biographical information, but what we are doing to help enforce the idea of historical empathy, is that we are having the students write a paragraph “auto”biography and present them to the class.  The paragraph must contain what the person would have actually said, and what they actually thought during the time.

I am very excited (and a little nervous) to finally get my feet wet in the educational atmosphere, and I hope that I can put to practice all the lessons on historical thinking that I have been learning from Messiah College and that I have been posting on Reckless Historians.  I’ll keep you posted on the results.



Christian, Lover of History, Aspiring Teacher

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Posted in Teaching History

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