In the spring of 2013 I was awarded the Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical by the NH Charitable Foundation to work on developing an interdisciplinary course on global issues. This course, “Global Issues since the Fall of the Wall,” is a culmination of what I have done for the past 30 years. It is interdisciplinary; it uses art, specifically James Nachtwey’s photographs, and it is current, focusing on events since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The genesis of this project began more than two decades ago when I incorporated James Nachtwey’s photographs into the Humanities course. When I used his images in the classroom – or better yet – brought students to see his work on exhibition at the nearby Hood Museum of Art, I witnessed first-hand the evocative power of his images.
Over the past 30 years I have taught at every grade (9-12) and at every level of ability from severely below average to Honor/AP in four schools, in four states. I started as the entire high school Social Studies department in a K-12, 400 student school in central New York, and I am now a senior member of both the English and Social Studies department at a Lebanon High School in Lebanon, NH where I have been for the last 22 years.
In each of these schools I have written curriculum that covers various combinations of World/Western/American history and literature. It was at Lebanon High School where I have found my passion in developing and teaching interdisciplinary curriculum because it is through the implicit connections in such a course that the higher order thinking skills of analysis and synthesis can really be exploited. Every year I have one or two sections of our American Studies class which is an interdisciplinary course integrating American history and literature content, yet focused on critical reading, writing, and thinking skills.
Roughly 20 years ago I changed the way I teach world history in order to start with the present, instead of hoping throughout the course that this might be the year to finally get beyond WWII. This led to the development of the Humanities course I taught at Lebanon High School for 15 years. The first 25% of the course was a unit called, “The New World [dis]Order” which focused on political disputes between Israel & the PLO, genocidal conflict in the former Yugoslavia, political instability in southern Africa, and the upheaval and conflict associated with post Cold War Russia. The course would come full circle in the weeks following the AP European Exam, focusing again on contemporary global issues, specifically human rights. The curriculum for this new course, “Global Issues Since the Fall of the Wall,” is based on the success of the introductory unit in the Humanities course.
When developing the most recent world history course I taught to 9th graders, my main objective was to create a history based class that would promote global citizenship by looking at the complexities of the current global community and then tracing the roots of some of the conflicts around the world. Given the district’s expectation that the course would cover the prehistoric to the present in one year, it was quite a challenge to do either the past or the present justice. Even in the “straight” English course I taught to 12th graders, “World Literature,” I used contemporary literature such as Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Martyrs’ Crossing, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist to launch into discussion and research papers about current conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Israel.