C. Todd Sharkey

Philosophy of Teaching History

One of my favorite hobbies is teaching history to high school students, and it has been a great pleasure to have been teaching since 2007. My first class was teaching world history course, which begins with Europe around 1200AD, to 9th and 10th graders from a local home school group.

My main focus is looking at history as a reflection of today and how what has happened in the past affects our lives now. As Edmond Burke said, “Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it.” This is why it is so important to teach history not as list of important dates to be memorized but as a flow of a story with concepts and ideas. History is also about teaching the students how to think. To do this, we spend part of the class looking at current events, discussing how it impacts our lives and relating it to past events.

To continue to help the students connect history with our current lives, I assign a perspective article where the students are given an article on a current topic and analyze it through a set of questions. Sometimes, we will read two opposing articles and analyze them together to help develop those critical thinking skills. I would summarize my goals for the students are:

  • Number one, to learn to love history
  • To see history as a big story
  • To see themselves as a part of that story
  • To learn important concepts and the flow of history
  • To reflect on our current times with a reference back to history
  • To develop critical thinking skills through history examination and thinking exercises

My tests focus on concepts and ideas of the chapter or chapters and not dates. I want them to know what is going on during the time period. Also, the test contains two essay questions which I give to the students prior to the test. The idea of giving the students the essay questions before the test is from Ken Blanchard’s “The One Minute Manager” and his advice to give people clear definitions of what you want them to accomplish.

The students are required to complete 3 projects in class. The biggest project takes two quarters to complete and is structured for the student to enter the National History Day competition. The students can work as individuals or teams. Two teams from my class have made it all the way to the finals in Washington D.C.

Reading List