Yesterday I invited the school librarian, Mr. Jackson, to come speak to my 8th grade US History class. I interviewed Mr. Jackson about what it was like to grow up in Panama in the Canal Zone during the 1960s. Mr. Jackson shared memories that he had of what Panama used to be like compared to how it is today.
I was very pleased by the way that my 8th graders politely listened as Mr. Jackson shared about his memories of John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Often times my 8th graders have trouble sitting still and being quiet for more than 2 minutes at a time, but they were engaged and were listening for the entire time that Mr. Jackson was speaking (nearly 40 minutes). After I had asked the initial questions in the interview, I allowed the students to ask Mr. Jackson questions. I was impressed by the questions that they asked. It was evident to me that they had been paying attention and that they were genuinely curious to learn more about the history of Panama – USA relations. One example of a student’s question to Mr. Jackson was, “How does it feel to have lived through all of this and now to have the chance to tell your story to us today?”
Nearly all of my 8th grade students remember going to the library when they were elementary students and reading books with Mr. Jackson. I think the relationship they already had with him helped them appreciate his story even more than the average class would have.
More than anything, this experience was a reminder to me of the power of telling stories in the classroom. History is simply a collection of stories that are shared. We have a shared history as human beings which isn’t fully known unless we are willing to be vulnerable with one another and share our stories honestly and authentically. Stories also have the power to help students connect with history in a way that a textbook cannot do.
I am grateful that Mr. Jackson allowed me to record our entire conversation using the StoryCorps App. This app allows you to quickly record an interview with someone and then share that interview with others. If you want to listen to Mr. Jackson’s story, which is fascinating, please CLICK HERE. If you have read this far, thank you so much! Please leave a comment below about what you think of this post of what you like about Mr. Jackson’s story.