Teaching the Holocaust
Trainee teachers studying on our (Secondary) English PGCE and (Secondary) Religious Studies PGCE recently spent the day exploring the Holocaust, critically examining how they might use fiction, poetry, objects, images and film to teach the topic across their respective subject areas. The day emphasised the importance of cross-curricular work in secondary schools an recognising our common humanity.
It was part of a wider two-week programme packed with inputs and workshops around professional and education studies where trainees were able to reflect on their progress so far as teachers and explore more complex areas of the secondary curriculum and teaching.
The day began with consideration of what is meant by antisemitism, then set the historical context of the Holocaust and explored key events, as well as recognising its enduring relevance.
This was followed by the exploration of and engagement in possible teaching approaches that might be used in a secondary school setting. Based on the Yiddish poet Moishe Shulstein’s poem ‘We are the Shoes’, trainees were asked to consider the lives of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust through personal artefacts such as shoes, spectacles and suitcases. The aim was to recognise the stories that objects might tell about the people they belonged to and the lives they led. Photographs of pre-war Jewish life were then used to piece together the diverse communities and the lives they lived. Book burning and its relevance was the focus of the next session.
The day enabled trainees to reflect on why the Holocaust should be taught; what makes good Holocaust education; how English and Religious Studies might contribute to this and what challenges might be faced.
Anne Denmead, course leader for English PGCE said: “Teaching the Holocaust is an important session for the trainees as it allows them to consider how to address challenging material by trying out activities for themselves.”
One trainee said of the day: “It was a great session that dealt with the issue really sensitively and offered practical lesson advice.”