Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wait Until I Tell My Mom What I Did in School Today

Hopefully the title of this post grabbed your attention.  As I was walking out of an eighth period class on Monday that is what I heard one student tell her friend.  As a Principal it was an amazing way to end the day.  I too sat in the same class as those students engaging in that conversation and am still in awe of how a little bit of technology could dramatically transform the learning experiences for our students. 

The state of NJ mandates that the Holocaust be covered at some point in the history curriculum.  In addition to this content being assimilated into various history courses, NMHS also offers an elective course on the topic.  On Monday January 10, 2011 our Holocaust and Genocide class Skyped with Peter Feigl, who currently resides in FL.  Mr. Fiegl's diary is found in chapter 3 of the book Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust by Alexander Zapruder. The book contains a collection of diaries written by Holocaust survivors in which they reflect on their experiences and provide a glimpse into this dark period in history.  For the entire period students had the opportunity to ask questions they had prepared.  Here are some examples followed by some of his summarized responses:

  • Of all the experiences, which had the most impact on you? Crossing the border into Switzerland in 1944.
  • How long did it take for you to think about other things than the Holocaust after it was over? I have the ability to push unpleasant things in the back of my mind, didn't confront until we were in our 60's.
  • Do you consider yourself Jewish or catholic?  This was a tricky question.  Here is a little history.  Father had him baptized Catholic in Vienna during 1937 to protect him from the Nazis anti-jewish policies.  The family then fled to France in 1940.  After his parents were arrested in 1942 he began to write a diary for them.
  • When did your children find out about your diary? Diary was originally confiscated in 1945. Shared amazing story of how he eventually got it back in 1982 from a collector of WWII items who purchased it at a flea Paris flea market in 1947.
  • Do you think that after everything you have been through, has it made you a better person and how? All I can say about this is that his response was very compelling and emotional.
  • Did you ever meet any of the other children you hid with or those that hid you after the war? The answer was yes and to the surprise of the teacher and class the survivor resided in NJ (Colleen Tambuscio, the teacher of the course, is now on a mission to find that survivor and connect him with the class).
  • How did you feel about the Neo-Nazi that killed the black security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Museum last year? Discussed the root of hate in certain people.
  • Where are the original diaries today? Donated to U.S. holocaust Museum

I found Mr. Feigl to be extremely articulate and he was able to recall events with clarity and detail.  It is one thing to read about historical facts and discuss them in class, but why be satisfied with just that?  With the integration of technology and a passionate educator, an authentic element can be constructed in a way that engages learners like never before.   Don't we wish for all of our students to go home excited to tell their parents what they learned in school each day?

For media coverage on the event click HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Eric, I agree with you, but too often our students and children don't have that sparkle, that extra hop in their step. We have the tools all around us to develop an engaging curriculum. Your story reminds me of the French class I observed that was Skyping with students from France in our language lab. How cool it was to see the interaction with our new friends across the pond.