Bill Ruttenberg

Our middle school does a big two-month unit about the Civil War. What I find each year is that I run out of time to bring things full circle in the classroom. We usually do not cover in depth (only briefly mentioning) the Reconstruction Era. We simply run out of time. I am hoping I can start to change this.

I chose to first teach this lesson to a small number of students in an after-school setting. What I found was that the lesson had a lot of impact on the students’ thinking. It did an awesome job of putting them in the freedmen’s shoes. It really made them think about the difficulty in deciding what to do after the Civil War. It also made them realize that just because the war was “finished,” didn’t mean the fighting was finished.

This unit really made students discuss what is “fair.” I heard several students say, “That’s not fair!” in their discussions. I believe that anytime that a teacher can get students thinking and discussing the idea of what is “fair” and the ideas of equality and liberty, then the lesson is worthwhile.