February 25, 2013

Teacher Side Note

I am teaching about the Holocaust in my classroom right now, so it has been on my mind a lot lately. It is a huge strain to carefully teach children about such a period of destruction and death without doing damage. I encapsulate this dreadful event in novels that don’t shy from the truth, but declare that hope lives, have characters that never give in to the overwhelming darkness of hatred, and try to teach students that we cannot let such things come to pass again. 

If you’re interested in some excellent young adult Holocaust novels, here are my personal favorites (in order from least difficult to hardest): Number the Stars, Yellow Star, Ashes, I Have Lived a Thousand Years, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Hiding Place, and Night. There is a graphic novel called The Complete Maus, which is told in an extended metaphor of cats (Nazis) and mice (their victims) that is also very well done. If you are going to share these with children, please read them first, be prepared to explain difficult concepts like stereotypes, racism, loss, and genocide, and it doesn’t hurt to have some historical facts about the time period handy. 

I’ve been asked, why teach children about such a horrible time period? I always reply, because humans are capable of horrific things. The Holocaust happened. Genocides are not a thing of the past. We, as human beings capable of intelligent thought, shouldn’t let it happen again. The best way to make that change is to teach children compassion, empathy, tolerance, awareness and a drive to do. We  must teach them not to be a bystander, the un-sung villain of the Holocaust. The Holocaust will always be a testament to what happens if we don’t. 

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