What's Your Story?

The idea behind the Family History Project is centered around the question "How can I help my students be more accepting of minorities, or more specifically, the Hispanic population in our school?" I was trying to eliminate the "Us vs Them" mentality that is so dangerous. Of course, this question was never made known to the students.

Finding commonalities can often bring people together. Because American History has a strong immigrant and immigrant law focus, I wanted to help students to see that we are all immigrants, unless of course we are 100% Native American. My hope was that when students realized they are also immigrants, it would stop some of the "they are here taking our jobs," "why don't they stay where they belong" and "build the wall" chatter.

This project was intended for all 3 of my American History II classes. All classes got the "Where I'm From" poem completed, but that is as far was we got. Some students interviewed relatives and still others started working on their family trees.

Steps in the process:

  1. Begin thinking of childhood memories...what was home like, what foods did you eat, what TV shows did you watch, did you have family traditions? Some students found this a difficult step and comments were made such as,

  • "I don't want to remember my childhood. It wasn't great!" Talia

  • "I had a bad childhood growing up. I don't want to bring all that back." Richard

  • "I have moved so many times how do I know which house I should describe in the poem?"

  • "What if I don't want my dad to be in any part of this? He has never been a dad to me. Can I use my step-dad instead?" Natalie

  • "I'm adopted! I don't know my birth parents. How am I going to do this?" Zoey

  • "I'm not on the best terms with my family right now. I really don't want to do this. I'm not even living at home. I do not want to talk to any of them." Tyler

  • "Do I have to talk to BOTH of my parents?" Abigail

  1. Interview a relative (preferably the oldest in your family): Students were given a specific set of questions that I wanted them to get answered and were free to add more questions if they were so inclined. Many students were nervous about this part of the project (only 1 or 2 actually got it done due to Covid-19). Again, students had questions:

  • "I never see my grandpa! He doesn't live here. How am I going to interview him?" Alexis (I told her about this new invention called the telephone)

  • "My grandma is in a nursing home. Do I have to go there and interview her?" Madison

  • "I can't understand my grandpa. He has had a stroke and it is hard for me to understand him. It scares me." Katie

  1. Make a family tree as far back as you can: Students were given websites as a starting point. Many of them already discovered their family's country of origin while doing the Where I'm From poem and the relative interview. More questions:

  • "How far back do we have to go? My grandparents are dead and my mom doesn't know anyone past her parents?" Talia

  • "I don't live with my dad. Do I have to put his side of the family on it? I hate him. He is not my dad. He was merely a sperm donor." Natalie

  • "Dawg, This is going to take forever." Keegan