The Voice of History Linda Lemery May 7, 2014 Reflecting Forward I have a history here. We all have histories here, or wherever it is that we live and work and love and raise our families. We create our own histories. The experiences we pour into them are fashioned much by our choices. Our children grew up here. They went to church, to preschool, to school here. They took piano lessons, played soccer, formed friendships here. Their experiences were formative and helped mold them into the young, independent thinkers they are today. People hold good values here. Some examples? Work hard and the work will sustain you. Love faithfully and that love will support you and those around you. Contribute to others and those gifts will multiply and come back to you. Believe in others and worship with all your heart; your efforts will be returned. Stick with the tasks you take on and see them through to the finish; what you learn will be used again in the most unexpected ways. One of my interests is in how people learn, and to feed that interest, I have been taking graduate courses in education for some years now. One of the buzzwords in current education textbooks is authentic. Textbooks talk about authentic learning and authentic assessment without really defining the terminology. What authentic appears to mean in this context is real, meaningful activities that are important to students in their worlds, are appropriate in size and scope, foster student curiosity and engagement, encourage self-motivation and reflection, take different creative forms and link to knowledge already present in students. So, how does this examination of the word authentic connect with a column about history? One of the most powerful assignments our sons had in their years of public school was when the children had to explore their personal histories. They had to learn from their parents who their grandparents really were, when they came to this country, where they came from, what they believed in, and how to translate all that into values to be put as stylized designs on a shield to represent the family’s creed or beliefs. Our sons learned a lot about each side of the family and where they came from. This authentic assignment built a sense of personal history that informed them at the time and as they grew. I have such good memories of our family’s personal history and our boys growing up in this good and safe place: hiking and biking on the Riverwalk trail, cheering at soccer games, playing board games on family nights, going out to dinner together, playing with friends, going out for a snack after school. That’s not to say that some of the experiences weren’t rocky, especially as they grew older; certainly they were. But the positive memories are the bricks of our personal histories; they form the foundations of our relationships. I’m also grateful to live in this place and to have had these experiences, to work at a job I enjoy and where I can make a contribution to the personal histories of the students with whom I work; though that contribution is small, I try to make it meaningful. I look at history mostly as personal interactions between people. A bigger scope of history is interesting, fascinating, horrifying, mesmerizing at many levels, but I live a quiet life. Personal interaction seems achievable; it’s where I can make the biggest difference for others. Although I wasn’t a history major in college, I think a lot about personal history and family history and lessons of history with respect to the rights of others, as viewed through the lenses of education and experience. I’m glad to have had 30+ years of an authentic personal and family history here, right here in Danville. How about you? About the Author: Linda Lemery firstname.lastname@example.org lives, writes, and works as Circulation Manager at Averett University’s Mary B. Blount Library in Danville. She welcomes your comments.