Making a Change: Teaching Students About Oral History

Laura Stott

History teacher Laura Stott from Madison Public Schools, Conn. is part of an innovation project to experiment with personalized learning throughout the year with Allison Zmuda.

I was VERY hesitant to do this.

To make a big change in an AP course, with the pressure of the AP exam, our good track record in student scores, and watching parents .

But one teacher’s choice could have ripple effects in positive ways too.

I have been thinking about having students conduct and analyze oral history interviews for perhaps the last ten years. But this year, with the support of Allison, my superintendent Tom Scarice, and my principal, TJ Salutari, I took the plunge. My inspiration very much came from my own experiences conducting and studying oral history interviews in college, and from this post written by Glen Whitman at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Maryland.

I am so excited about teaching my students about oral history, and I am so excited for the experiences they will have. Some will get to know family members in new ways, others will document family history, and still others will meet new people and learn about their life experiences. It is not my job as a history teacher just to train good AP students and test takers. It is my job to grow historians and citizens with a deep understanding of the ways individuals are impacted by and shape history, and who have an intrinsic desire to learn more from others in their community.

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