As teachers, we constantly strive to engage the students in our classrooms both emotionally and intellectually; we choose learning materials we hope will resonant with them and initiate discussions aimed at inspiring their intellectual curiosity and critical thinking. If we’re very lucky, what we do in the classroom ultimately leads to personal reflection, growth and a life-long passion for learning.
In the social sciences, study around the Holocaust gives us, as educators, an amazing opportunity to enter into discussions with our students about topics such as stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, and what can happen when fundamental human and civil rights are denied to individuals or groups of people. That said, because of both the nature of the material and the sheer depth of research surrounding the Holocaust, it is possible for teachers approaching the subject to feel overwhelmed when trying to develop lesson and/or unit plans.
I know that this was the position I found myself in several years ago during my first student teaching experience in a Grade 10 history classroom. At the time, one of the ways that I found most effective in preparing myself to teach the subject to my students was to take part in a number of professional development opportunities related to Holocaust studies and teaching pedagogy and to network with other teachers who were doing the same.
Three years later, I am still interested in professional development surrounding Holocaust education, only now I am responsible for organizing and promoting the events rather than participating in them. In my new position as the Education Coordinator for the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, the first event that I am responsible for tackling is the 7th Biennial Shafran Teachers’ Conference, which is taking place on February 11th, 2011.
This year, a representative from Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies, Stephanie McMahon-Kaye, will present the award-winning multimedia curriculum, Echoes and Reflections, to those in attendance. Participants of the conference will all receive a copy of this outstanding resource – the result of a partnership between the Anti-Defamation League and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education – which includes everything teachers need to teach the complex issues of the Holocaust and its lessons for today (valued at $100).
Whether teaching a comprehensive course on Holocaust and Genocide Studies or including a single class about the Holocaust in a unit of study on the Second World War, this curriculum allows teachers to choose as little or as much material as they can cover in a specific time period and still cover the subject matter effectively. Developed primarily for use with high school students, the Echoes and Reflections curriculum has also been adapted successfully to accommodate both younger and older students.
The curriculum includes ten multi-part lesson plans as well as a companion DVD of over two-and-a-half hours of visual history testimony from survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. Each of the interdisciplinary lessons is supported with numerous primary source documents, including poems, literature excerpts, maps, photographs, timelines, a glossary and student handouts.
The conference will begin with an exploration of the pedagogy of teaching the Holocaust before transitioning to lesson-specific presentations on topics such as ghettos, the “Final Solution” and rescuers and non-Jewish resistance.
For teachers living in the Vancouver area, I highly recommend taking advantage of the chance to learn from a representative of one of the world’s leading centres on Holocaust education, gain a rich resource, and network with other area teachers.
Anyone interested in registering for this conference can do so at www.vhec.org. The registration deadline is January 28th, 2011.