A lifetime ago, at least that is what it feels like, I was a middle school Social Studies teacher. It was the greatest job in the world. Every year students would come into my class and they would say ‘I hate history’. On the second day of school, I would tell the story of my family. The preface started with “My family would not be here if it wasn’t for Adolf Hitler”. Students would look at me quizzically trying to figure out the connection. Eventually, the story would conclude with the theme of “History Happens Everyday” (As a side note, if you are interested in the story, I would be happy to share it in person sometime).
Several weeks ago, John Finney, a high school social studies teacher, and I met for a connect meeting. We spent about an hour together. He shared his story with me and it left me awestruck. History lives in John’s classroom. History happens everyday in there and John brings it to life making connections with students. His story about teaching, life, learning, and growth is powerful.
John shared personal things with me that I will not share here. However, John’s belief in growth came through in different ways during our conversation. John’s son is also a teacher. His son serves in an urban high school. The two of them communicate daily bouncing ideas off each other, providing feedback about lessons, and learning together. John shared how much he has learned through this process with his son and how it has opened him up to growing his practice to serve his students.
We also discussed the challenges of teaching. John’s belief is that he can connect with students, especially those who need a champion. He approaches his responsibility with the sincere desire to reach every student in our building with the help they need even if they make mistakes and wrong choices. Because of his personal story, John wants students to make sure they know he is a trusted adult that will help them navigate their path. He lets them know they can write their own story. It may be different than others, but it is their own.
One of our five expectations in Fairbanks Local Schools is to “Believe in Growth”. John lives this everyday. He brings history alive, challenges students to grow, and helps them write their own story. If you ever get a chance to stop by, history happens everyday in Mr. Finney’s classroom.