Sara Paul

As a former Facing History teacher and now a U.S. history teacher, I use many Zinn Education Project resources. My students always come alive during lessons about slavery, Civil War, and now Reconstruction.

My students love participating in the Reconstruction Mixer. A lot of my students have a hard time understanding why racism, sexism, and overall hate exist. During the mixer, especially last year, students experienced how hard people had to work to try to bridge alliances and fight. They see that even though the formerly enslaved were now free, the battle for their rights continued. They see how women, even white women, still did not have equality. Their eyes open wide as they learn from each other how people can help or hinder a movement.

One student stayed after class to talk about the last question, about finding someone that you could take common action with and what action you could take. This student had Elizabeth Cady Stanton and he really was fighting for her causes. This young man of 13, who normally only thinks about himself and his needs, stopped to think about his role. He talked to me about how he can’t believe that women still are treated less than equal and asked what could he do to help. We had a talk about how he treats the girls and women in his life, how he allows other boys to talk and treat girls around him, and how can he be an example for respecting others that are different than us. He talked about how he knows what it is like to have to work to be seen. His words were so touching and we had weekly check-ins to make sure we were working on equality and equity in our school among the students and staff.

This is just one story of the great things that happen when using the Reconstruction Mixer. My students earn a deeper knowledge of the issues, and ways that divide us as people, and how to keep working for justice.