By Angela Jarman

Epigraph: T. Angela explores the meaning of studying History with her Senior students.

January 25-29

Week 1

The 21st Century Skills – what are they, and how are they different? And how do we rate our own grasp of these key abilities, from being creative and curious, to understanding others and thinking critically?

Salome shared: “This week, going in depth like that on stuff we’ve heard for all these years- at first I thought it was boring. I already knew all this. I’ve heard it all before. But going through it step-by-step, reflecting on why I thought I had those skills, why I should want those skills to grow – suddenly it clicked. I could see I really need to want to learn and grow.”

John Dewey famously said we don’t learn by experience, we learn by reflecting on experience. The skill of reflection — deep personal thinking and self-questioning – seems to be a common need, and common goal, for our students this year.

February 1-5

Week 2

Both SRA and B classes questioned history from the first “real” class. For some, this is the third year looking at 20th Century History. They see others who took the History IGCSE exam, who now get to use this block to study, and wish they were also free to study. I asked them to put their questions on hold until we got through the Netflix documentary Social Dilemma.

Mia asked a great question: “Why don’t we study now? Why do we always have to study events that happened 100 years ago?” This provided the perfect opener for watching the documentary.

Discussion breaks every 10 min. work really well. So much discussion, this documentary will need next week also.

Cold War timeline: a lot of details from last year have been erased. “Oh…. I used to know that.” and “I forgot….” and “why do we have to remember that?!?”

Rules at school change: SR allowed to have their cell phones, as long as they don’t become a distraction. 



February 8-12

Week 3

Continuing to go through Social Dilemma. Concepts that are grabbing attention:

  1. Social media is addictive. Some describe feelings of anxiety. Others see it as their choice. “We should do a ‘no phone’ challenge, for just a week. But most won’t do it.” (Ellia)
  2. ‘Rabbit holes’ – algorithms present new options that lead you further down a path.
  3. Everyone knows people who believe conspiracy theories – polarization is increasing.

Some suspense building: “What does this have to do with 20th century history?”

Interesting discussion: good lies have a grain of truth.

Feb 15-19

Week 4

In both classes, we have now finished “Social Dilemma.” We returned to WHY we study history. I asked: What questions do you have about history? Silence at first. We played a warm-up game of questions (any type, any subject) in general. Some tried to answer the questions, but the point was to ask – ask – ask. Curiosity is the key ingredient in learning – if you don’t have it, learning is hard work, if not impossible! 

Finishing the warm-up, I set the recorder on and asked for 3 solid minutes of historical questions. At first, there were just a few, and some awkward pauses. Then the questions started coming more quickly. “What if different versions of history exist?” “What is the definitive version of history?” “How do we know we are studying the right version?” There was a sense of futility – that knowing the past was impossible.

In the second class, we discussed TRUTH. I threw a pen against the wall. “What just happened?”  

“You threw a pen kind of at me,” Claudia said. 

“No I didn’t.”

“You threw a pen because we weren’t paying attention,” Stefano tried.

“No, I did not!”

“You threw a pen at the wall,” someone offered.


“You threw a pen.”



  1. there is truth, and then there is everything around truth: opinions about motives, implications, consequences… While history asks us to form opinions about implications and consequences, our job as historians is to establish a common set of facts. (Reference to Social Dilemma: If everyone has a different set of facts, we will never agree.) 
  2. History is not complete, because each time new facts are discovered, it can change, like scientific theories. 

“History should be called a theory, then.”

“History is better [more accurate? More interesting?] ]if more people record their facts.”


Photographs: Leandro Natale