Notes from the Director

I moved to the Bay Area twenty years ago this summer to teach kindergarten at an elementary school in West Oakland. That decision was the beginning of making the Bay Area my home. I’m not in touch with students from that class, who are now twenty five, but I do maintain a relationship with a student who was also in kindergarten at the school then. Through her eyes, as she tries to make sense of what it means to be an adult in a world of racism and economic inequality, I am reminded regularly of how important the work of the school is, but also that it cannot work in isolation. We hope that you know UCBHSSP stands as one among many resources to support the important work you do to educate and care for young people. 

Project Director Rachel Reinhard, Lafayette Elementary School, Oakland, California, 1998.

In the past, UCBHSSP has tried to support teachers curricularly as they engage students in academic conversations about our nation and the world’s history. We have helped them devise learning strategies to foster literacy and disciplinary thinking. These endeavors continue to be important to us, and we hope to you as well. But, we also know that we can do more to support the broader work that is demanded of teachers in your classrooms.We know that while ever year presents many challenges, this year may offer more than most. As you and your students return to school, our minds are filled with the jarring images of white nationalist demonstrations and white supremacist violence amid calls of deportation and hate. While we also hold, and offer them, ideas and images of a more just and hopeful world that we must embark on creating together, we know that many students do not feel safe.

UCBHSSP Co-Director Phyllis Goldsmith, with high school history makers, on the last day of summer programming.

While we have worked with teachers over the last year to use the new H-SS Framework to support the explicit choices they make in their classrooms, based on grade level standards, teacher expertise, and, of course, student engagement and cultural relevance, this summer we centered new work in our discussions with teachers. We introduced teachers to planning tools that included the integration of contemporary topics in history-based curricular units. We discussed what meaningful civic engagement can (and should) look like in a social studies classroom. And, with our high school History Makers, we explored the power of using personal and local histories to engage young people in the study of the past. 

But we know that we can always do and be better. This year, our Teacher Research Group, which in the past has grappled with devising learning strategies to foster academic literacy and historical thinking, will take on the Ethical Dimension of history. We will collectively push ourselves to think about what the personal work of the instructor must be, how we can thoughtfully plan for historically grounded discussions of essential questions, and how we can use the history of our immediate communities in order to more deeply engage students in the study of history, engagement in their communities, and the tackling of imaginative solutions to move us closer to a more fair and just world.

We look forward to seeing you this year. Do know that we stand with you and in support of you as you take on the important work of educating young people at this, our very own, moment to make history.