At the Heart of Every Lesson – by Alex Zinnes

by | Jan 13, 2016 | Blog

7th-8th Grade World Studies Teacher
Friends School of Atlanta

There was this lovely moment in early February the day before Grandparents and Special Friends Day. I had been teaching my students about global trade through the life-cycle of the t-shirt. I really enjoyed everything about that unit. It was relevant, brought the global local, made social justice real, and the stories of the workers connected the learning to something kids cared about. They loved learning about the people and processes, and seeing themselves as vital links in the chain, emphasizing my central belief that 7th grade is not a dress rehearsal for something to come, and 7th graders are not bit players in the drama.

I recalled that my own grandparents, a couple of kids from the ghettos of Kiev and the shtetls of Poland, were themselves garment workers in New York. On the day before Grandparents day, I taught a little unit about them, their stories and histories. My Dad, with his elephantine memory, offered rich details to fill in the details about wages and work days, strikes and shop stewardship.

I realized that day sharing with my students the photos of my grandparents and telling of their lives that my grandparents came alive through me and it occurred to me that I was, to an extent, teaching my own story, too.

It got me thinking: at the heart of every lesson I’m proud of, I’m teaching of myself.