From an early age, I was attracted to the history of a place and its people. This attraction is shared with both my father and mother, and has most definitely fostered this curiosity and deepened my passion. I learned to understand the topics of geography, history, and anthropology through studying locally. Both my father’s and mother’s ancestors were immigrants from Europe, and came right to the same town and started lives here. The town where I was raised, and now teach was partially shaped by my family and the families of many friends. My dad would drive me around, showing me where my grandparents’ grocery store was located, how his cousins lived on the same block and his mother and aunts would just open the door to holler for dinner. I would continuously meet people who connected to these stories. I think it was made me love learning history in school. Because I always wanted to connect the story to a person, and try to live that time period through that person’s experience. I built an arsenal of facts on the local anthropology, all because I was genuinely connected to it.
In high school, I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I was not sure what exactly I wanted to study, I was torn between English and History. In my senior year, I was granted the opportunity to focus my senior research project on the history and evolution of my home town. When I originally discussed this possible topic with my English teacher, a lifetime resident and now educator, she embraced my ideas and pointed me in the direction of a research mentor, the high school librarian. I found published local histories and an arsenal of primary sources. This was the longest research paper I had ever written at the time, and I felt it was easier than papers from before. After turning my research findings into formal, written paragraphs, I had nearly reached the assignment’s length requirements.
Around the same time, one of my own history teachers presented an internship opportunity to our class. It would be a seat in the building and zoning department of our local township. I quickly applied, interviewed, and was offered the position. I worked in this department for four summers. I had to scan and attach various property documents to the GIS system. In addition, I had to evaluate and organize an entire storage room of documents dating back to the late 1800s. It was a lot of reading, but I discovered so much. I still know many of the local histories and like to share the stories.
Now I am a history teacher in this same community, educating eighth graders. Am I doing enough to allow for connected learning? Am I offering opportunities for students to flourish together and benefit from one another? Am I helping my students use their learning to let their passions thrive, with the help of others? These are questions that I asked myself as I read into the theory of connected learning.