Notes from the Director

Each year, UCBHSSP staff meets for day-long meetings to discuss what we have accomplished, what we have learned, and where we should be going. This year, we kept coming back to the word “empower”.

How can our work empower teachers to make deliberate decisions with regard to how and what they teach?

How can history instruction empower students to navigate and shape the increasingly challenging world they will inherit?

We never have all the answers, but we endeavor to find them collectively via our work with Bay Area H-SS educators. To that end, Devin is working with South Bay teachers on integrating civic action into their history courses. This inquiry group, in partnership with the Santa Clara County Office of Education, is exploring models for practicing the modes of analysis required for civic action with the topics studied in H-SS classrooms. Using our Making History modules, Phyllis has been working closely with the teachers in the Contra Costa County court schools to localize their history instruction, while integrating themes from ELA and SEL curriculum. And, Jason, who joined our team this summer after several years teaching in the Oakland Unified School District, is helping us think through how we can best support teachers in creating Ethnic Studies courses for their school communities.

At our recent meeting, we huddled around our door and created a Venn Diagram of the elements of each of these efforts, and we recognized that they shared much in common – an understanding of the need to name teacher and student worldviews, a commitment to making curricular ties to contemporary issues, and guidance in using deliberately selected case studies to make the topics studied more meaningful to students. They also call out distinct strategies to empowerment – turning our gaze to the history in our communities, introducing counternarratives, explicitly naming power relationships among historical actors (and in the present).

As we share this thinking with teachers via our work with schools and districts, and explore the intersection of the approaches as a means of better articulating who we are and what we stand for, we invite you to join us for this year’s Community Convenings. Together, we will engage in collaborative learning and conversation about each of these approaches. These gatherings will provide an opportunity for us to share with you our current best guess with regard to planning for meaningful H-SS instruction that empowers teachers and students. We hope to see you in your classrooms and at UC Berkeley in November, February, and March.

September 2019