Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What a day!

There are days when I am simply amazed. In my Holocaust Lit class we are reading The World Must Know. I debated this idea (internally) but came to the conclusion that my students must read at least the first two sections in order to understand as much as possible about this "thing" called the Holocaust. My current format is that they read independently and then bring ideas, emotions, questions, etc. to class discussion. They have "think journals" with them at all times to record these things while they're reading.

Today in class we discussed the section about Christianity, Martin Luther's comments on Judaism, and the history of exile within Judaism. Several students had commented in their journals that they felt a new sense of shame in their religion and a new understanding of Jewish persecution prior to Hitler's empire. The conversation was rich, emotional, and moving. I was so amazed at some of the statements they made and the questions they asked. It was amazing that much of their conversation - the conversation of 15 - 18 year-olds - reflected much of our discussion online before coming to New York. I must say, I underestimated their ability to understand the gravity of it all. I could see it in their eyes. They were hungry for more. They wanted to understand human nature and how "all of this stuff" came to be. Wow! This year is going to be life-changing for all of us, I can feel it.

Today, there was a group of 12 kids, in the middle of Nebraska who began to understand more of the world and themselves. Maybe I can make a difference.



tmmaerke said...

One question: where did you get the money for all the copies of The World Must Know?

Danielle said...

Well, we're getting around some of that right now by borrowing and reading together (I actually have three copies of it). We're waiting on our books yet because my Barnes and Noble order was delayed by a week. My principal saw the value in the book and decided to buy enough copies for the class - I'm also going to be sharing them with the history teacher. I feel really fortunate.

Danielle said...

Oh, and we are getting used copies of the book - that helps tremendously. It just takes a little more leg work.

Valerie said...

How inspiring, Danielle, and, yes, you are making a difference!

tseib said...

Danielle: We have finished our first full week of school and my Contemporary History class is well into the Holocaust unit. They are really fascinated by what we are doing and the resources I have been able to bring to their study of the subject thus far. We have had so great discussions and their questions have been very deep ones, much like what you are describing in your class. I am changing things with my unit plan as we go along and learning on the fly what works and what doesn't, but overall I am very happy with it so far.

By the way, my wife and daughter loved their Pashmini shawls. Thanks so much for picking them out!

Tom Seib

Danielle said...


I'm really happy to hear that the women in your life approve of my choices! In Nebraska they're two things - 1) a pretty accessory and 2) a conversation piece (since they're not as prevalent here as they are in NY).

I'm glad to hear that your class is going well. I agree though, much of the progress relies on flexibility and learning as I/we go. My junior English class will be beginning Night in a week or so (collaborating with Larry's class) so I'm excited to see how that goes. Especially because Larry's not a plan ahead type of guy (yes Larry, I know you're laughing in agreement as you read this).

Take care, hopefully I see you at the Holocaust Conference in Hastings!


dfield said...

Danielle: Great news! Let us know if you want us to get a survivor to speak to your class/school. Perhaps your kids would like to read Olga's book. We can furnish you with copies. Contact Sondra for a mini-grant.
My best. David A. Field

Sondra.perl@lehman.cuny.edu said...

Hi Danielle and Tom,
It's great to hear about the depth of students' reactions. Wonderful work!


Danielle said...


I'm planning to have the students read Olga's book as well as The Sunflower by Wiesenthal.

I am planning to complete a grant application in the near future. (And thanks for the encouragement.)

Take Care!