Teach By Example By Jessica Scerbo

On our first evening in Warsaw, the guest speakers told us not to leave Poland sad. The weight of this journey holds pain and sadness, but the message was clear. Be thankful for the time we live in and spread the important lessons to ensure the message of…never again. I hold this close to me during the memorials, while hearing the first hand accounts, and throughout the somber moments of being where it all happened.

The magnitude of the Warsaw cemetery choked my heart and mind with despair. I had to search for those signs of hope. I stopped to take a photo of the sewer opening young children had crawled through leading from the ghetto to the cemetery where they could hide. The fear is unimaginable to me. Later on the bus, I was sorting through photos. I almost deleted this one because my feet are in it. I stopped and truly realized. I am here. I am where these brave child victims stood. I went back to the message. Be happy you are living today.

What is the happy of life today? Of course it is having food, shelter, family, education, and freedom. Beyond that, we have the ability to fight indifference. This trip has fueled that for me. A quote by Marian Turski’ spoke to me at the Poland Museum. “Auschwitz did not fall from the sky. Auschwitz crept up, tiptoed along with small steps, moved closer and closer, until the things that happened here began.” We need to think about this daily. As educators, we have the power and responsibility to fight indifference. We can make the space to foster meaningful thinking and sharing among our students. I bought a magnet with Turku’s words in the museum gift shop. It reads “Thou shalt not me indifferent.”

I work with students, families, and teachers in an elementary school. When I first learned of CWB’s Poland study, I immediately wanted to apply. My first thought was, I am not a “history teacher” can I go? I talked with a good friend about it. Her response was…history teachers are not and should not be the only ones who learn deeply about the Holocaust. During a recent Q and A with Howard, two basic questions that were asked of him resonated with me. 

Why is your focus on informing teachers as the target audience? His response that it is in our hands to “repair an imperfect world.” 

What is the most important thing we can pass along to students? Howard went on to explain that although accurate curriculum is very important, a simpler truth is central. “Teach by example.”

That conversation confirmed my why for attending the seminar. Hate is real. Hate exists today. I will not be indifferent. Modeling kindness and creating equity can never start too young. I will honor Howard’s wishes and teach by example every day.

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