SOCIAL STUDIES & HISTORY
Allison Hayden (AH) interviewed Hannah Bostick (HB) to find out what authentic Christian education looks like in the Social Studies and History classrooms.
AH: Tell us a little about what brought you into teaching social studies and what your journey to Bethesda looked like.
HB: Well, I grew up in a family of teachers. My mom was an art teacher and before that she was a middle school math and science teacher. My. dad had been a middle school, high school history and Bible teacher and then became the middle school principal at some point.
So, education was always something that was really highly valued in my family and I really liked it and just something that I could never probably peg drew me into teaching.
Then, when I was in middle school, I had a social studies teacher and her name was Mrs. Lamb and she was my social studies teacher between sixth grade through eighth grade. So, I had her all three years of junior high.
And just the way that she talked about social studies and just made it come alive was really, really wonderful and so engaging and she just cared so much about what we were doing and how we were learning and just our personal connection to the subject and just made it just so fun.
And I learned so much from it. And so, in eighth grade when we did our little eighth grade graduation, they asked us all what we wanted to be when we grew up. And I said, “I want to be Mrs. Lamb; I want to be a social studies teacher.”
And so, literally from the age of 14, I have never strayed from that path of wanting to be specifically a middle school social studies teacher. I went to Taylor university and I studied it and I had amazing middle school experiences and it just really, really affirmed what I felt was the calling on my life.
And, and so when it came to the interview process of getting jobs, I had applied all over the place and everywhere kept saying no. I even got a job offer to be a math teacher…
So, I thought, “Maybe I have to be a math teacher before I can ever become a social studies teacher.”
But I applied to Bethesda and interviewed and I felt like I totally killed the interview and I felt really confident that I would get the job. I was really nervous because I love Christian school cause I'm a product of Christian school and I knew I wanted to work in a Christian school at some point in my life.
Even though the thought of teaching all the classes seemed really, really daunting, I knew that I could do it if this was a school God was calling me to. But I never heard back. And so, I felt really sad and, and my mom suggested that I email to just to check on the process. Like I didn't email back that said that they weren't actually hiring the position anymore.
But within the next week I got the job that I ended up having for my first year of teaching, which I was an eighth-grade social studies teacher and I loved it. I loved my students, but, near the end of that school year, I began to want to be back where I'm from, to go back to my roots. I wanted to be in the Brownsburg area and near family. But then I also wanted to be a part of Christian education.
And so I was starting to look for jobs again and Bethesda popped up in my search. I wasn’t sure if I really want to apply again, but then I got an email asking me to interview.
The interview went well and I came in to teach a class. And then the kids I taught, I really, really enjoyed. I really liked meeting them and I got to teach eighth graders, so I was in my element. And I just knew, walking through the school, just seeing the community of students, that it was a really special place and a really, relational community-based place.
And that was something that I really wanted and something that I felt like the Lord had been leading me to, to be relational with students. That's part of my calling as a teacher, I believe, to be really relational and really show students how much I care about them.
Not only through teaching them content and teaching them about the history of our world and the history of people, but also, just through the social skills of my subject as well.
AH: Yeah, so that leads me to my next question: you often hear people say things like, “ Well, social studies isn't as important,” or “It's just learning a bunch of facts about people or dates and times and different stuff like that.”
And so how do you make your classroom relevant? What skills do you teach them that transcend, say, “George Washington's presidency” and apply to their real lives”
HB: So throughout the vast variety of what I teach, from the beginnings of world history to the modern day and then, specifically, United States history and European history, I think a big skill that I ideally want them to learn about is this idea of “How can we have conversations with one another over viewpoints that we may not agree with?”
(How do we have those conversations) when we get into conflict areas where we do not agree with each other or, even in our own Christian worldview, where we're not agreeing with what the world has come to believe about something?
This idea of trying to find the truth - but then also the ability to discuss with those who do not agree with us? In James chapter one, it talks a lot about this idea of being “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. “
And I try to model that for students, whether that is a simple activity like through dress-up, where they're researching one specific event in history and they are being told that they have to be on an opposite side of what they believe.
Getting into the shoes of someone else to learn someone else's viewpoint, not only gives them a better understanding of why there are so many sides to one story or to one side of beliefs, but also getting them thinking about “How do I defend my faith?” or “How do I defend my worldview?” and having that ability to be able to talk with others and not talk in a way that is combative or, brings about conflict but actually conversing in ways that bring healing or ways that bring a better conversation and better learning to a situation.
And I think that in all of my classes, in one way or another, we get to that point. Slowly from seventh grade to the time that they are a junior in my class, they will eventually be able to grow those skills to be able to have in their class and then also with others, that they'll come into contact with - post high school
AH: Let’s talk about your AP European history class. How is that class rigorous and challenging for students. But in the specific skills, not hard for the sake of hard, not ridiculously difficult just to punish kids, but it's intentional and you’re guiding students through it, especially as, for many students, it's their first AP course?
HB: I think the biggest theme of any AP class that you take, but specifically having your first AP class be a history class is the skillset of, first of all, learning how to balance everything.
So, the idea that what you're learning in the classroom is backed up by the ability of you to be able to take notes. And not just take notes about what is on the screen in front of you if we're in a lecture setting but the ability to also be taking notes based off of what someone is just saying to you or explaining to you and that no one is necessarily guiding your note taking.
It's just this idea of “What am I taking out of this that I think I'm going to need to know later? What am I taking out of this that is going to be important?”
And so learning that note taking skillset, but then also the idea that things we talk about in class is backed up by their assigned reading work and what they're reading or what they're researching, are things that they're going to have to hold on to but also be able to take notes on as well. But they have to be doing both simultaneously. AP is not a commitment of “Oh, I'm just going to work hard in the classroom.”
It's this idea of “I have to balance my education in the classroom and at home and what is that going to look like?” And so, I oftentimes give them a suggested reading schedule on my board as we go throughout a chapter. And so, it's not me telling them, “You have to read (this) today” to make it feel like a chore. I'm giving them a pace where I would expect them to be. There's also this idea that not every day we can make that, but it, there's the expectation there that if I'm going to actually fully understand what I'm talking about, then I need to actually have the commitment to be caught up in class.
A third element of rigor is then, also at the same time, we're writing essays - and historical writing being so different from an English class writing, which is so often their most common form of writing essays.
Trying to train them to be analytical, to use their critical thinking skills and really develop those into a way where they can eloquently express themselves through writing.
So, taking their thought process where they could probably converse with me about what they're thinking, but how are we going to write it down on paper - in a specific time limit as well - to be able to get their point across?
We try to practice those every few weeks or so. And oftentimes we'll peer edit, or I will go through a rubric with them and we'll explain it or we'll grade sample work for them to understand how an AP grader is grading it and adding those different dynamics of the class for them to see it in different ways and therefore be ready for any situation.
AH: That's awesome. My next question is “How do you incorporate the Gospel conversation into your teaching?” Social studies lends itself to that – but even just as you're talking through the actions, the beliefs, the laws throughout history, both World and US – can you give us some examples of how your teaching is rooted in the Gospel?
HB: Yeah, so I would say one of the biggest examples is, obviously in World history, we get to overlap with a lot of what they learn when they're in Bible with Church history or, when they're in Bible with the beginnings of like ancient Egypt and ancient Israel and things that overlap a lot with what they’ve read in the Bible, what they've learned in Bible class.
And so that's a really cool thing ‘cause you can come in and then they're thinking, “Oh, I have some sort of like prior knowledge in this area” and they oftentimes will feel more confident in the classroom. And so that is a real bonus point, that I would see in being at a Christian school and learning this history.
But coming from the standpoint that America is founded on a lot of Christian values, adding that to the idea of “What do we see in the footprints of our history that lend itself to this idea that, today, we can still hope to find some of those footprints of our faith in the way that our Constitution is written or in the way that our government is set up?"
And even just coming from the standpoint of talking about the decisions of leaders and maybe the decisions of people, creating systems where they're trying to help others: How do we find that in our Christian calling - in our Great Commission to go out and make disciples and to go out and help one another when that is one of our highest callings to be able to love our neighbor as ourselves?
And where in history do we see that happen and the fruits of that and the success of that? Or where do we see places where that doesn't happen? And the idea of being able to talk about: “If this person would have responded in this way… and the way that we are called to respond? What do you think the reaction can be from there? And, granted, that can take us into rabbit holes at different points in time and that's not the trap that we want to get into.
But so much of the blessing of being able to teach history is we get to live on the other side of it. And we already live on the other side of these people's decisions. And we can choose then ourselves: Will we make those same decisions? Or will we make, hopefully, ideally, decisions that are through a lens in which Christ is our Savior? And we want to live in the way that He’s called us to.
AH: That reminds me – and I love it - in your room you put up a new quote and it's a Biblical quote of the typical “Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it”, but it's totally slanted in a Biblical way, which I thought was really cool.
HB: Yeah - it's the idea that we don't study history to be clever; we study history to be wise always.
It conveys the idea that, through this understanding of history and through this knowledge of the perfectly planned and timed out thing that is going to fit into God's master plan of salvation…if we understand where we've come from, then we're going to have this deep root of wisdom. And we are called to be searching for wisdom, not just knowledge that can come and go, but wisdom that can last with us always.
AH: Well, thank you.