Blair Hennessy

It’s not often that you find teenagers volunteering information about what’s happening in history class to their parents, but during family conferences, families wanted to know more about this “trial” that their students had been talking about. A set of twins compared notes across classes on the drive home from school, another student had his mom call her friend who was a DA to help prepare for the big day. It was conversations like these that made me grateful for the Reconstruction trial activity.

I was impressed with our freshmen students tackling such complex topics with confidence — supporting their arguments with evidence and pushing one another to defend their thinking. This activity not only provided an opportunity for students to engage with meaningful questions and information, but it also helped to solidify our learning community and prompted students to write well-crafted essays.

It was so gratifying to see the many directions that students took their writing. Some explored the question “How does one prosecute a system?” Others explored “How are white supremacy and capitalism dependent on one another?” Others explored the ways in which the poor white community was manipulated by those in power. Although, of course, there are ways in which I will adapt this learning for current students, I can’t imagine teaching this unit again without it.