History does not live in a textbook, on a page, or in the past. Yet, in classrooms that are driven by standardized tests, history seems confined to exist as solely facts and figures. There seems to be no room with this drive to include anecdotes, personal histories, or local history. George Washington crossing the Delaware is an important event, but my students know nothing of the Siege of New Haven. While I don't want to equate the two in terms of importance, knowledge of local place and local history need to be incorporated into our classrooms in vivid ways.
History does not live in a textbook, but where is it exactly? The job of the historian is to find history, trends, events, and accounts, and weave them into a narrative about our past. While, historians do read a lot, they don't look for 'canned' answers in textbooks. Historians spend their time look at and investigating different resources to help them see and explain what they see. I want my students to be historians, to deal with the past on a face-to-face basis, to interpret what they see and discover, and to understand the power beyond "canned" answers. There are considerable struggles and difficulties with this task in the classroom. As the teacher, our job is to help students see the larger connections between their interviews and their work in the classroom.
History lives on the streets and outside the strict confines of the classroom and textbook and doesn't exist solely according to an answer key. History needs to be messy and students need to do history in order to understand that. The culminating project tasks students to create Oral History of a New Haven Block, their block. Sending students out to conduct interviews and compile trends and facts about their block will give them to chance to see how personal and local stories match the larger historical trends and ideas we discuss in class. History doesn't just live in books and classroom assignments, but it also isn't easy to find history on the streets and neighborhoods alive and well. My project will help students connect the trends and