Teaching is Remembering

Dear Reader:

Even if I didn’t teach history…I think I would have figured out, along the way, that teaching students is simply a lesson in helping them remember what they already know.

The quote “History has its eyes on you” comes from lyrics of the 19th song in the block-buster  musical, Hamilton. It speaks volumes about life lessons and how our actions trigger other people’s perceptions about us at each moment in our own personal history of life.

Just remember from here on in history has its eyes on you. 

In the lyrics from this song the actor portraying George Washington is remembering his first fiasco as a commander… as he watched his men get slaughtered and he wonders how those people who knew him then and  witnessed this debacle would perceive him… so matter where the rest of history took him.

Alexander Hamilton has begged Washington for a chance to command men in the American Revolution and finally Washington relents and gives him the leadership post, but somberly warns him that “History has its eyes on him.” 

HAMILTON*** – “History Has Its Eyes on You”, with lyrics – YouTube

If I were teaching a lesson on an historical figure…I would, usually, see bored faces staring down or around the room until I told a story about something that had happened in the historical figure’s life that the students could relate to…that they could remember themselves…sharing the same feelings in a similar situation.

For example: I would tell the students how close George Washington was to his half-brother, Lawrence, fourteen years older than himself. When Lawrence contracted tuberculosis his physician urged him to go to a dry tropical climate to heal his lungs. Since sea travel was hard on its passengers back then Lawrence asked his younger brother George to accompany him leaving behind his wife and young infant daughter.

Unfortunately Lawrence was not cured, instead George Washington developed smallpox which left physical scars on his face. Lawrence only lived about a year more following the trip. But two twists of fate interceded to put Washington where he was destined to be…Mount Vernon’s (Lawrence’s home) went to George Washington, in his will,  since Lawrence’s children/heirs/ all died young. Secondly, George Washington survived the ravages of smallpox epidemics that killed more soldiers than bullets in the upcoming American Revolution. (Since Washington already had the disease previously, he was  immune from it.)

I would stop and ask the students to write down a similar example of when something that started out badly ended up being, surprisingly, the best thing that ever happened to them.

These lessons made the students remember shared feelings and feelings trigger our memory neurons for long-term retention…the students had now built a personal relationship with an historical figure.

From her book Glimpses of Grace (Madeleine ‘ Engle) reminds us that “Plato talks of all learning as remembering.”

“The chief job of the teacher is to help us to remember all that we have forgotten….One of the great sorrows which came to human beings when Adam and Eve left the Garden was the loss of memory, memory of all that God’s children are meant to be.”

“In art, either as creators or participators, we are helped to remember some of the glorious things we have forgotten, and some of the terrible things we are asked to endure, we who are children of God by adoption and grace.”

So until tomorrow…

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

As I was leaving Publix yesterday there was a woman with a dog and a crowd had formed around her….the dog was huge! It was a Newfoundland…all black. The sweetest dog… she had named it “Chewie” for Stars Wars Chewbacca! She told us what you need to know before you adopt one of these dogs is the fact that your electricity bill will double since they have to keep the air-conditioner on most of the year. (The dog was still a puppy…under two years and weighed in at 130 pounds…will be around 200 as a grown adult.Forget electricity…how do you afford to feed “Chewie?”)

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About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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