Teaching Outside the Textbook Across the Country June 7, 2010

We are pleased to announce that 20 teachers from across the country are receiving class sets of A People’s History of the United States. These teachers’ names were selected from the 88 who responded when we asked for stories about teaching a people’s history or “teaching outside the textbook.” The essays were full of inspiring examples of how a people’s history is being taught in middle and high school classrooms, how teachers were introduced to Howard Zinn’s work, and how students respond to learning a more complete version of U.S. history. The list of teachers who took the time to share their story is posted here.

Students and their teacher, Chris Lewis, in El Monte, California with their copies of A People's History of the United States from the Teaching Outside the Textbook class set.

El Monte, California students and their teacher, Chris Lewis (4th from right) with their copies of A People’s History of the United States from the Teaching Outside the Textbook class set.

Below are a few excerpts from the essays. Periodically we will share more.

American history teacher Esmeralda Tello (Mastic Beach, NY) said that teaching a people’s history helps her students step into history. In fact, when she recently did a role play on the Trail of Tears, her “students wouldn’t stop speaking about their roles and were still debating even when they went to their next class.”  (The role play is posted at the Zinn Education Project site: http://www.zinnedproject.org/posts/1142.)

Middle school social studies teacher, Sarah Treworgy (Lynnwood, WA), used a lesson on the U.S.-Mexican War that brings in the voices of Frederick Douglass; Henry David Thoreau; U.S, Mexican, and Apache combatants; and many others. She writes that, “It was so wonderful to see a group of usually unmotivated students engaged, that I called in another teacher to see this group of students actively involved.” (http://www.zinnedproject.org/posts/1503.)

As American history teacher Michael Swogger (Gettysburg, PA) explained, “I changed the focus of my teaching from a traditional government and hero-centered focus to the very place where change ultimately originates: with the people. After all, my students are, by and large, the ordinary people of today. If society is going to progress, it’s going to come from the people and not the select few.”

One student in U.S. history teacher Bryan Hoang’s (Irvine, CA) class realized by studying a people’s history that “History isn’t so much about what happened in the past. It’s about how to change the future.” An 11th grade student of Mark Isero’s (San Francisco, CA) figured that if “people made history, I can too.”

Many teachers are being recognized for Teaching Outside the Textbook by their respective school district and local media, including Mica Perez who was featured on the San Antonio evening news.

We look forward to staying in touch with everyone who contributed essays so that we can continue to collect and share examples of how to bring a people’s history into the classroom. In addition to 25 copies of A People’s History, the class sets include one copy of the film The People Speak and two additional books: A Young People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History of the United States. The remainder of the 88 teachers who submitted stories will receive one book. The gift of the class sets and the additional books was made possible by donations from HarperCollins, Seven Stories Press, and The People Speak.

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