Institute News

Educators Inspired at Second Polish Edition of Teaching with Testimony in the 21st Century

During six days of intensive training at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews (MHPJ) in Warsaw, Poland, 10 experienced Polish educators learned how to use USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive in their educational practice.

For the first time, Polish teachers had the chance to use the Visual History Archive in MHPJ’s Educational Center. MHPJ became a Visual History Archive access site in November 2013.

The participants hailed from schools all over Poland and teach Polish literature, English, history, civics and ethics. Two MHPJ staff members also attended in order to prepare new lesson plans for MHPJ’s education department. Schools across Poland participate in the museum’s educational programming.

USC Shoah Foundation’s flagship professional development initiative, Teaching with Testimony is a two-year program that incorporates workshops, mentoring, and community building to prepare secondary school educators to search for and utilize testimony from the Visual History Archive, as well as digital learning tools such as IWitness.

Teachers convene for an initial training session in which USC Shoah Foundation’s local liaisons provide instruction in using the Visual History Archive, building lessons and activities around the testimonies, ethical video editing, and other topics. Participants pilot the testimony-based lessons they’ve created in their own classrooms over the next year, and then reunite to present their lessons to next year’s cohort and receive feedback.

Andrea Szönyi , senior international training consultant, conducted a workshop on designing educational materials based on Holocaust survivors’ testimonies. Martin Šmok, senior international program consultant, presented on anti-Semitic propaganda and its influence on the everyday lives of today’s young people. Both trainings were evaluated highly by participants.

According to Monika Koszyńska, USC Shoah Foundation regional consultant in Poland, the participants appreciated both the content and structure of the Teaching with Testimony program and provided the following comments:

[…] “Maybe it is not new for me - knowledge about constructivism and its use in education, but still – now I am sure that I am doing right things and I will continue to do them this way.”[…]

[…] “Now I will always remember that every sentence used by the witness has so many layers and it is so important to explain them to our students.”[…]

[…] “We went through several trainings and - out of good will, but still -  we can often feel some kind of ideology, political wish behind it, which tends to oversimplify things. Here we are faced with no ideology... there is no "super truth" ... just human beings..."[…]