When I first realized that the new New York State assessments would require knowledge of historical thinking skills four years ago, I was honestly excited. Rote memorization had never made me fulfilled as a history teacher. I’ve always preferred to teach my students to think, and I was happy that I would now be teaching them to think about history.
I teach a little bit of Irish history every year. Even though it’s not really in the seventh grade curriculum anymore (except for the fact that the Irish helped build the Erie Canal), I still sneak in a day to discuss Irish immigration. Many of my students have Irish heritage, so they are easily interested in the subject. For some reason, they find the darkness of the famine really compelling.