Learning about the Holocaust can be very difficult, so teaching about it can seem very daunting. I somehow avoided learning about the Holocaust throughout my school years – I never studied GCSE History, R.S focused on Jewish traditions and practises rather than the events that affected their faith, so I was blissfully unaware …until my PGCE.
I will always remember the boisterous year eight R.S class who I taught the Holocaust to in my first teaching placement. I don’t know what worried me more: the thought of standing in front of a class to teach about a topic area so emotionally delicate or the response the year eights would have to it. As I planned my lesson I prepared myself for the jokes, jibes and inappropriate comments and I envisaged worst case scenarios (a right of passage for any teacher.) How wrong could I have been!
On hearing the horrors of the concentration camps, the conditions of the ghettos and the systematic brainwashing of thousands – the students were transformed. The class were engaged, asking questions such as “Why were the photographs taken?” all the time wanting to know more. As a teacher you long for those moments when you really connect with a class, beyond the lesson plan and usual distractions, when time just moves by effortlessly. This was the first time I experienced that feeling.
Teaching about the Holocaust is so much more than an event in history, it is a way to connect with a class on a different level – where what you teach actually matters and it matters to them.