by George J Elbaum
This was my 4th visit to American High School (AHS), which has an enrollment of 2200 students and, in addition to the usual common core academic program, it has a Sophomore Global Studies program run by teachers Wali Noori and John Creger, which includes the Personal Creed Project. In the Creed, students are asked to reflect on their main influences, their own values, the qualities they wish to develop in themselves to help their own lives, and the difference they want to make in the lives of others or the world. This not only gives students an opportunity to share their own stories in the classroom but it also includes an extensive curricular exploration of the Holocaust and through it, a focus on others. Some of the students have classes with both Mr. Noori and Mr. Creger, and in both classrooms students experience not only the academic leg but also the personal leg of learning. Mr. Noori conducts his own version of the Creed called the Personal History project, in which students are asked to reflect on and present how their lives connect to historical themes, and describe four specific pivotal events in their own life and the wisdom they have gained from these.
As the culmination of the Holocaust unit of instruction, Wali Noori and John Creger organized my presentation as an opportunity for their students to hear a personal story about the Holocaust. As an introduction, Jack Weinstein of Facing History & Ourselves (who arranged this talk and had previously guided AHS teachers about the content of this instruction unit) spoke to the students about the importance of learning about the Holocaust directly from the few remaining survivors, and for the students to pass it onward someday when no survivors remain. My talk resulted in a great Q&A session with many thoughtful and penetrating questions from the students. In attendance was also AHS Special Ed teacher Sally Schmidt.