By Monika Koszyńska, USC Shoah Foundation Regional Consultant in Poland
Teachers learned how to use testimony in their classroom activities at the third Teaching with Testimony in the 21st Century professional development program in Poland Nov. 9-14, 2014. It was the second time the program has been held at the new POLIN Museum of The History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.
Two weeks after the official opening of the core exhibition of the Museum, a group of 13 local teachers of history, civics, foreign languages and Polish literature had the chance to learn how to use the testimonies of genocide survivors and witnesses collected by USC Shoah Foundation in its Visual History Archive in their classroom and how to prepare educational materials based on them.
For the next year, the teachers will pilot the lessons and activities they developed in their classrooms. They will then return for a follow-up session to share their lessons with each other and discuss best practices.
Different parts of the training were most important for different participants, depending on subjects they teach and their personal interests. However, all of them agreed that it is crucial to not only know technically how to edit testimony clips and incorporate them into classroom activities, but how to do it ethically and respectfully of the interviewees.
Every one of the teachers stressed during the closing session that Teaching with Testimony gave them knowledge and tools enabling them to teach their students how history happens to individual people, and that people have power to change the course of the history when they are aware of possible consequences of their actions.
In an evaluation of the program, one of the teachers said: “[I’m thinking] about building a lesson for my high school students who are visiting the school library I am working in, using the testimony of homosexuals – the victims of Nazi policy – because I witness every day how easy my students label others and bulling [sic] them using the term “gay.” I think that homophobia is a hot problem in young generation of Poles.”