Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Very little time? No problem!

It's amazing how quickly the end of the school year can come once May begins. This past year I taught Advanced Studies World History to 10th graders for the first time. When teaching a new course I find it difficult to stay on a set schedule with the units. While I am using materials created by others who have taught the course I like to adjust things and find or create new lessons. The end result was that I found myself with very little time at the end of the semester to cover World War II and the Holocaust. Originally I had grand plans of spending a few weeks covering these topics. Instead I only had a couple of weeks. I went into scramble mode to think of ways to teach the Holocaust. The Echoes and Reflections curriculum provided the solution. The great part of this curriculum is the ability to use it in small or larger pieces. It includes very short (generally 1-2 minutes long) video clips as well as lesson plans with documents. Here is how I used it.

  • As part of our look at the Nazi ideology and antisemitism I showed Echoes & Reflections video clips from Lesson 2 (Part 1) which consisted of survivors discussing life before the war in Germany and examples of antisemitism. 
  • As part of the discussion on Nazi propaganda with emphasis on how Jews represented I showed Echoes & Reflections video clips - Lesson 2 (Part 2) in which survivors talk about their experience with Nazi propaganda. 
  • When it came to look at the ghettos I showed Echoes & Reflections video clips - Lesson 4 which includes testimony that provides a very thorough look at life in the ghettos. In addition I used the Echoes & Reflections student handouts on "The Ghettos" & "Excerpts from The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak". There are questions that can be used to guide discussion. 
  • Finally, in studying Liberation I used Echoes & Reflections video clips - Lesson 8 which covers the topics of liberation and also the DP camps.
 These weren't the only topics I covered but they were the ones in which the Echoes and Reflections curriculum proved most useful to meet my needs. I won't let this happen next year. The Holocaust will be covered in greater detail over a longer time frame. However I still plan to use the Echoes and Reflections curriculum extensively. It is comforting to know that if I leave myself short on time that I can fall back on the lessons from the curriculum. If you get the chance to attend a training or just purchase the curriculum do it without hesitation. It is thorough in its coverage of the Holocaust but can be easily used in small segments to meet your needs.

Bystanders, Collaborators and Perpetrators

Recently at MCHE we went through some “refresher” training in a curriculum series titled Echoes and Reflections.  This is a really great resource for teachers, especially if you had a class or an entire unit designated to Holocaust studies.  But, I am not one of those lucky teachers.  In fact I teach US History, so I always have to find creative ways to work in Holocaust education into my classroom during our unit on WWII.  I’ve blogged aboutways to do this in earlier posts such as comparing and contrasting Jim Crow andNuremberg Laws.  I’ve used readings from the book Race and Membership inAmerican History:  The Eugenics Movement, which was created by Facing History and Ourselves to examine eugenics programs and racial misconceptions in both the US and Germany.     

The newest lesson I introduced this year was dealing with the terms:  bystanders, collaborators, and perpetrators.  I used a lesson from the Echoes and Reflections curriculum that has students define the terms and then apply them to a document.  The document is an official report discussing one particular Jewish transport.  In this lesson, I had students first define the terms bystander, collaborator, and perpetrator.  We discussed the definitions and came to a consensus on each definition.  Then they read the report and made a list of all people who were involved or aware of the transport.  We discussed that list as a class and then I asked students to label who was a bystander, collaborator, and perpetrator based on the definitions.  

We then went over the labels and it was really very interesting to see how the students came up with different labels for most of the people.  We then had a group discussion about these three terms and how you determine who should be held accountable and how. For example, we asked if the US was a bystander and if so what was our responsibility?   My students really wrestled with these questions and I think it helped, once again, to establish the complexity of the Holocaust in dealing with the subject of responsibility and accountability. 

Training on this curriculum is available through the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education in July - and all registered participants receive a free copy of the curriculum valued at $100. If you are not able to attend a training, you can still check a copy of the curriculum out of the MCHE Resource Center