A continutation of the last post, related to the Rwandan genocide…

I re-watched Hotel Rwanda sorting through clips that would be appropriate to show to a middle school classroom.  I thought that I would never watch the movie again after I had seen it the first time.  There are things that I only need or want to see once.  This was one of those movies.  But, now I sit with the opportunity to tell the story… to an audience that is completely out of the loop… my students.  Watching the movie again was necessary to bring another form of information to them to learn from, to see, to understand.  It has been a long day and I am thinking that tomorrow will be as well.

But here’s the thing, the story can be told in such a compelling way today.  On the blog circuit I read Tell Me Your Story; Stir My Heart and What’s in a Story? today.  These two posts get at the crux of what I am trying to do with the story of the Rwandan genocide.  The big idea about telling a story with conviction and passion came through loud and clear.  The story I tell to the students this week is a heavy story, one that both shatters and inspires, uplifts and ashames, horrifies and amazes.  The great thing about teaching history is that the whole subject is one long story.  But the perplexing part is in what story is told, how the story is told and with what passion the story is told. 

The story of the Rwandan genocide can be brought to life for the students in my classroom with the resources at our fingertips.  We listen to interviews with the UN generals that were on the ground, with survivors of the genocide, with officials that were part of the world governments at the time.  We stream in videos that play the story of the Hutus and the Tutsis, show the violence of the time and report the events that occur as a part of this devastating chapter from history.  We watch with horror as the flash based timeline rolls though events and death tolls.  We closely watch the news to see what is happening in Darfur and Somalia as both have connections to the Rwandan story.  The story is powerful in the written word, becomes vivid with the audio, transforms to mezmerizing with video… the kids get this in a way that I cannot ‘tell’ the story of 200 years ago.  The capability to bring this digital information to the students revolutionizes the way I teach, transforms the way they learn and transcends any bubble test the ‘powers that be’ come up with. 

Using this story of courage, hope and integrity as a model the students soon begin telling the story of someone else who has used their life, like Paul Rusesabagina used his life… and the students will also include the story of how they plan to use their own life to positively impact the lives around them.  There is a quote from Think:Lab today that sums it up to a tee

If you can tell a story, you have an audience. If you tell a great story, you have a great audience.  If you invite others to create that story with you, you have something far deeper.

Starting on Monday the students will begin to tell their stories and I look forward to the challenge that this will bring for all of us.