Wednesday 25 Jan, 2017

Learn With Your Heart

Erin L. is a secondary teacher focusing in History, Civics, and World Religions in Oakville, Ontario who is taking a busload (literally!) of students and chaperones to the 100th anniversary of the victory at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France. Learn why anyone can show their students the world and how Erin helps connect the past to the present.

“You learn with your heart.” These words, spoken by Erin, highlight her teaching philosophy. What she means by this is simply that if you’re not enthusiastically engaged, if the material doesn’t speak to you, you will not truly understand. Sure, you may learn something, even remember it for a while, but you won’t be able to internalize, grapple with, and produce unique, critical thoughts without that internal passion. Erin first realized this difference in her own secondary education, when she disliked subjects like history (which she now loves and teaches) because the story behind the curricula was so one-sided and not compelling. It wasn’t until her time at university that she fell in love with the stories in history – specifically the ones driven by unsung heroes.

Erin tells this tale at the first class for every new cohort, with the intention of compelling her own students to discover the multi-faceted and complex stories behind the static text. She brings the books to life in an engaging way, conveying that “…there’s more than one story and that…it’s never over. The stories continue to happen…history doesn’t end; it’s always happening we make it.”

This is exactly what Erin and her group set out to do in April: make history. This is Erin’s first time leading an educational tour and second time to Europe after her International Training Tour to France. Without hesitation, she called EF nearly two years ago in order to get this program rolling. She built her team, invited her students, and filled her bus. What better way to bring the textbook to life than to string the Vimy story together while following in the soldiers’ literal footsteps? Between the educational programming at Vimy, daily reflections, and EF’s soldier-pairing research projects, Erin is actively fostering connections between students’ and Canada’s history, their history.

Beyond historical reflection, Erin sees this experience as a unique time to both learn from history and be a part of it. 2017 marks a notable year in Canada’s history: its 150th anniversary as a nation and the 100th anniversary of one of the most significant military events in Canada’s history. Tens of thousands of Canadians are gathering together to take part in this momentous occasion, and Erin saw this as the best opportunity to make these connections, to tell these stories, that foster lasting intrigue in a student.

Erin’s story exemplifies why anyone can participate in educational travel; even when the scale is massive and/or your experience is limited. During Erin’s first trip to Europe on her International Training Tour she kept a journal and remarked on how she felt, rather than what she did; “…it’s those little details that are just so cool and that stuck with me.” It’s easy to remember where we went, but impossible to remember how we feel. These feelings, though, are integral to connecting with the story and feeling empowered to make your own.  There is no question about why Erin has been such a successful educator, organizer, and leader as she truly embodies one of EF’s core values: Nothing is Impossible.

Start making connections for your students, just like Erin did. Find out how, here!