/ 13 May 2005

Changing history

EMILIA POTENZA and BARBARA JOHANNESSON review Teachers Transform History by Sue Krige et al (Heinemann, R87)

TEACHING history is one of the most challenging tasks in our schools today. Teachers Transform History presents the work of real teachers who have effected exciting changes.

Teachers Transform History is a wonderfully inspired book for secondary school history teachers and teachers-in-training. The text has depth and integrity and is sensitive to issues of race, class and gender. Unfortunately, many new history and social science books have a phony feel about them — they imitate politically correct terminology and hide conservative assumptions about ”ethnicity”, ”culture” and gender.

This book is definitely not one of them! It reflects the authors’ many years of experience of, and deep commitment to, anti-apartheid and gender-sensitive teaching. The book is extremely practical and offers a wide selection of topics and methodologies for teachers to try out in their classrooms — from uncovering ‘hidden history” by doing local history projects, to teaching about the continent we live on and know so little about.

Developing effective assessment tasks is time-consuming and difficult, and assessing exactly what we aimed to achieve is a problem for most of us. Section Three of this book contains many useful assessment exercises which can help train teachers to move away from testing memory to assessing historical thinking skills.

Most South African teachers share a legacy of being taught badly at school and at college; many teachers and learners are still having to use outdated textbooks.

Teachers Transform History will help teachers to reflect on how they think about the past, begin to challenge their stereotypes and their practice, and encourage them to use all sources as tools to develop critical thinking among learners.

The conclusion of the book is very apt: ”The study of History prepares pupils for the modern world — a very complicated and confusing world in which people are bombarded with information all day long. Except for the few pupils who go on to do history at university, history at school is the only chance most people have to learn and think about the society they live in. If pupils learn that the past is complex and can be understood in many different ways, they will be better prepared to deal with the world they live in. But for history to do this, teachers need to understand and interpret syllabuses and textbooks in a meaningful way, and help children do the same. Change begins in your classroom, not in the office of an official in Pretoria.”

If you have ideas about transforming history in your classroom, you can write to: Sue Krige History Workshop PO Wits 2050

— The Teacher/Mail & Guardian, March 20, 2000.


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