The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
A common criticism I hear about the education system is that it stifles creativity and forces all students to learn the same information, regardless of interest or intended career path. I feel like I am fortunate enough to have always had teachers and now professors that have taught content I find interesting, but for many students that has not been their experience. I am taking education classes with the intent of becoming a high school history teacher, and I want students to be able to engage with the content of my classes. For this to happen, I need to teach content that they find interesting and are going to want to pay attention to. This is a challenge for teachers because there are content standards in place and a curriculum that they need to follow, but the key is finding a way to intertwine student interest with these standards.
In my European history class in high school, my teacher did this by allowing us to choose a “fun” research project to present at the end of the school year. I say “fun” because we still had to research an historical topic, but it could be something like pirates or Vikings- something that is not covered in the curriculum but still builds on historical knowledge. This was a great project for the time between the AP exams and the end of the school year because we were already finished with the AP content and were able to learn without a time constraint. Doing a topic of our choosing meant that we would be more invested in the project and have an incentive to learn. Picking a topic meant that we could have a chance to explore something that the teacher touched on during the year, but did not expand on in great detail due to time constraints and content standards.
Recently, I was talking to my coworker about my major and she said that she always hated her history classes because they were boring. I told her about my research on Joan of Arc’s trial and she was fascinated by it and wanted to go look up the story of Joan of Arc when she got home that evening. She told me that if her teachers had told her more stories like that, she would have liked her history classes more. Conversations like that show me that students will engage with content if they are interested in it, so giving students more control over what they learn is a way to keep them interested. Teachers and professors that allow students to follow their interests often end up being the most memorable ones because students are the most engaged in their classes and will remember them the most fondly.