Friday, November 9, 2018

Keeping History Current with by John Cummings

I came to teaching by following a nontraditional path.  My first career was with the United States Air Force where I served as an aviator and then an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Launch Officer for America’s nuclear land-based missiles.  From there, I worked in the high pressure sales environment of New York City.  So why tell you that?  Well, I was certain that my first day standing in front of high school juniors in an American History class would be far easier than what I had already accomplished in professional life.  As I looked at those young faces I thought: “I’m an experienced aviator, I held a top secret security clearance, and had worked with nukes; I’d thrived in one of America’s largest cities during the Great Recession…I’m completely overwhelmed.”

Enter and the plethora of resources readily and easily available to teachers like me on their first day all the way to teachers in the last years of their careers.  These resources truly are an invaluable part of what I do with my limited time with my students.  Fast forward four years from that overwhelmed day and you’ll find me using resources almost every day.  The one that I am most excited to talk about is their archive of current event articles and critical thinking questions.  One of my consistent goals is to make our history relevant to my students’ lives today.’s current event articles allow me to do this with very little prep time and afford me the opportunity to connect events of our past to events of our present in insightful ways that teach students not only reading comprehension, but critical thinking and writing skills.  These techniques are paramount to succeeding in my class and in life beyond the walls of our school.  

If I’m teaching a lesson on the Know Nothing Party and nativist attitudes towards immigrant waves of the 1800s, I know I can easily find a well-written article on the current immigration debate with attached questions. The information will not only create avenues for critical thought, but also allow my students to articulate their beliefs in a class discussion that parallels similar debates held in the past. Debates on the Constitution? No problem!  Military conflict and international relations? Check and check!  I know’s current event lessons changed my approach to teaching for the better and gave me an invaluable resource I continue to use today!