A History graduate returned to the University of Worcester to share her experiences of teaching controversial historical topics to children.
Abi Leyland gave a presentation to current final year History students on some of the issues that might arise when teaching troubling events of the past, particularly the transatlantic slave trade.
She also spoke about her journey into the teaching profession and her experiences so far.
“It’s been really surreal, but I really enjoyed it,” said Abi. “It’s quite heart-warming to see the people in my position two years ago, to say this is where I came from and where they’re going.
“My aim was to prepare anyone who is going to do the History Secondary course what they’re going to be in for. Teaching is not easy, but it’s worth it.”
Abi studied her undergraduate degree then her PGCE Secondary in History at the University. She now teaches history at Hagley Catholic High School and is responsible for the development and delivery of the Key Stage 3 curriculum. She also teaches GCSE and A-Level History.
Abi gave students on the ‘Atlantic Slave Trade’ module her insights into the good practice techniques teachers could employ to educate pupils on this and other controversial topics effectively and sensitively. This included using the proper terminology and being educated on the wider topic themselves, as well as keeping up to date with the latest research. She also highlighted some of the hurdles that might arise in the classroom that might need to be considered and addressed, such as pupils’ immaturity and people’s attitudes and pre-conceptions.
“It’s important that we’re giving trainee teachers the right training and mindset so they can give that to the students,” said Abi, 24.
The visit came about after Abi’s former lecturer, Professor Suzanne Schwarz, an expert on the transatlantic slave trade, agreed to speak to sixth formers at Abi’s school about her research. Abi added: “History at the University of Worcester set me up with the knowledge and skills to succeed in my teaching career, and the opportunity to be at the forefront of cutting-edge research as part of the Transatlantic Slave Trade module enabled me to develop this as part of our curriculum at Hagley.”
Third year joint History and Sociology student, Katy Small, said: “It was a really inspiring talk that showed just how relevant and useful what we learn at undergraduate level can be, especially hearing it from someone who only graduated a few years ago and is already applying it in a workplace! It was great to see how we could have a direct impact on ensuring the teaching of history is exciting, engaging and as accurate as possible, just as Abi is doing.”
Fellow third year History student, Lauren Thatcher, added: “As a prospective student teacher myself, it was inspiring to meet Abi and not only learn more about her journey and her life as a teacher, but also to understand how to approach controversial topics when teaching today's generation. Abi was engaging, enthusiastic and confident and is clearly a wonderful teacher.”