Artifact 2:  (Field) News Editorial--"Trail of Tears"

Standards:  2,5
Goals: 2

Trail of Tears
                                                              (click to enlarge)

      During our unit on Andrew Jackson, my students and I spent a significant portion of a class period discussing the controversial opinions about Native Americans in the early 1800s and their rights to their own land—my classes mainly discussed the Jackson administration, and how he had openly believed that white settlers should be able to move into Native American lands and essentially force those tribes out of their home. Then, after a series of heartbreaking events, the Trail of Tears ensued.

     The next morning, one of my students approached me with an incredible primary source: a copy of the “Cherokee Phoenix,” which had belonged to his family for years. He spoke to us about the Cherokee tribe at length, specifically how they had created their own alphabet and newspaper in order to appease white settlers in hopes that they would not be forced out of their fertile lands. I was so impressed by his knowledge of the topic that I decided to create an assignment in which students would create an illustrated, front-page newspaper editorial that displayed a third party-perspective on the lamentable journey that would forever be called, “The Trail of Tears.”

     The activity went over very well, so I’m very excited to include an example in my portfolio of how a student’s cultural background can enhance learning.  I found that I learned as much as the students did in this lesson.  I used this opportunity to follow my ambition of encouraging creativity and diversity, and capitalized on a "teachable moment" to further my class's understanding, tolerance, and appreciation of different cultures.  Since I began to create class activities and assignments that were more suited to student interests, I found that I received some positive results. As I made writing assignments more relevant to their after-school activities, several students revealed the kind of intellectual curiosity that I had hoped was there all along. I almost cried when I read one student’s paper about his young immigrant parents, the day he was born, and about the Brooklyn apartment he lived in before moving to Michigan for his father’s new job.