By Sam Routhier, World History teacher at KIPP NYC College Prep
My first year as a teacher, I struggled with a challenge that many first-year teachers face: classroom management. For me, the solution was to invest more deeply in engaging my students. When I created a history lesson, I’d stop to think: “Why is this relevant to the world becoming the place that it has become? How can I make my kids appreciate that and help them understand that it’s worthwhile?” When I had a lesson that went poorly, I’d ask myself, “Where did I lose them?” and try to find the answer in a planning decision I made.
In my second year at KIPP, I explored this engagement idea even further. I had the idea that it would enrich my kids’ education if I took them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We had a great time — they were engaged and excited, and they learned about art history. Pretty soon I became addicted to taking students to the Met. I probably do it around four times a school year, and it makes our history class come alive in a cool way. Each year a few kids really take to it and come along multiple times, and by the third or fourth time they are running the tour.
Now in my ninth year of teaching, I’m still enriched by the work itself. The effort of being the best teacher I can be, coming up with the most engaging lessons and units, pushing my students to a standard that will challenge them – this is what makes my work intellectually interesting and rewarding. Not to mention I love sharing my love of world history with my students. Through activities like our trips to the Met, we get to have fun learning history and exploring our city together.
I think what has made my work at KIPP more sustainable is the fervent belief that learning world history enriches my students’ lives and future opportunities. When alumni cite European imperialism in college essays about racial exploitation, or when they send me links about politics and say how our course informed their understanding – these are clear indications that a high school world history course is part of creating the choice-filled lives that our kids deserve. This big picture understanding has allowed me to get over small-scale challenges so that I can stay focused on a mission I believe in.