Looking Back in Order to Move Forward
~ Brandon Grunden, Upper School Humanities Teacher, History
In our last trimester of this school year I found myself in a time period I’ve taught the most in my 5 years of teaching while also staying in Early Modern World History and Christian Heritage, which ran over the course of two trimesters. Teaching Greco-Roman history is like coming home for me; this was the time period I taught during my student teaching experience. I do feel that my approach is getting better every year and am thankful for having so much time invested into that subject. As the second trimester gave way to the third trimester in World History and Christian Heritage, we found ourselves studying the cause and effects of the Industrial Revolution before getting out Charles Dickens and reading A Tale of Two Cities while studying the French Revolution.
Greco-Roman History, “The Blood Escaping Man”
When learning Greco-Roman history we immerse ourselves in Greek Mythology. In fact, the stories of the Iliad and Odyssey become the backbone of this course as we begin our study of Greece and Rome with the Minoans and Mycenaeans and work all the way through to the fall of the Roman Empire. By the end of The Wanderings of Odysseus, students have spent so much time with this character, that, as they are flipping through the final pages, they are both excited and nervous for what is in store for Odysseus as he finally makes his way into his kingdom disguised as a beggar, 20 years after leaving. These stories also help to provide context into the war-like nature of the Spartans and, to a lesser extent, the Athenians. These stories are what the educated masses in the Greek city-states would have been reading. These stories also reflect why the Greeks, even in differing city-states, approached their lives with a sense of honor, courage, and xenia (ancient Greek concept of hospitality). We also read other Greek myths as a way to show how the Greeks viewed the gods and the role the gods played in the lives of the Greeks. Students are also amazed by the fact that elements of math and science as we know it today come from the Greeks, as does philosophy, theater, architecture, and democracy. Unfortunately, by the time we get to Rome, there isn’t a whole lot of time to get as deep into Rome as we do Greece. Thankfully, students learn a lot of Roman culture in their Latin classes.
World History and Christian Heritage I (Age of Exploration – Pre-WW I), “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
The French Revolution becomes the lynchpin of the second trimester in this history course. Of course, we turn to Dickens and his novel, A Tale of Two Cities, as a way to add a sense of the personal to the broad view of the historical. His references to the instrument of the Reign of Terror as La Guillotine and The National Razor personify the time period and make it all the more terrible. Thus, it is no wonder that when choosing how they wanted to approach their end of the unit assignment, most students chose to create a guillotine. As I write this, there is a 5-foot tall guillotine staring me down in my classroom. Not only does Dickens’ novel provide personal stories, it also provides very relevant themes for us to break down and discuss both at the beginning and the end of the novel.
Prior to the French Revolution, we spent time, mostly through simulations (though not enough of them), learning about the Industrial Revolution and discussing what progress and growth look like and what the human and environmental consequences were as a result. Finally, with regard to the Industrial Revolution, we looked at how 19th century Europeans responded to the demands of the Industrial Revolution and what impact those responses would have on other, and future, events. And, though it was short lived, we spent time in South America in learning about their Independence movements in the 19th century. We also read about and discussed the plight of serfs in Russia along with Russia’s late move to an industrial society leading to that fertile ground for the seed of a misguided form of Marxism to take root at the turn of the 20th century.
This wraps up the last post for the history courses taught for the 2016-2017 school year. I will follow up with a post about my final reflections on the school year but I hope that you have enjoyed reading about what has taken place in history class this year. I know I have enjoyed reflecting on teaching this past year and am looking forward to hitting the ground running in late August.