Visiting Beacon – What I Can Bring Back to My Classroom

I actually saw a lot of stuff going on that I was or am already doing, which was kind of nice to see. The project I mentioned in the last post was very similar to one I did with my students earlier in the year. In observing a senior 20th Century American History research seminar on Social History, I spent a lot of time talking to students about how they came up a good research topic. Most of them said it was based on the general survey of the relevant history they had done before choosing an independent research topic. This is the same structure I am using with my students at the moment as they conduct a research project for National History Day. But of course, there was much to be learned from what I saw that I want to bring to my students:

  • I am most definitely a teacher of students first, and my subject second. I am certain this is a good thing. However, I also think it is very important to a) be knowledgeable about your subject and b) be passionate about it. Not that I didn’t already know this, but in both Global classes I observed today I saw teachers way more knowledgeable about Global History than I am. I also saw teachers clearly passionate about teaching Global – a passion, I have to admit, I do not share. I need more knowledge (which I know will come over time) and I need to find more aspects of non-US / non-20th-century history I am passionate about if I am going to continue teaching Global in the long term.
  • Granted this was for a senior research class, but one of the things mandated as part of the research paper was that they conduct an Oral History (or interview an expert) as part of the research. Of the dozen or so students I had a chance to talk to, the ones most into their topics were the ones with a personal connection (a young woman researching the marginalization of women in the Black Panthers who had an aunt in the Panthers, a guy researching the history of public housing who lives in public housing). However, the next set of students most excited about their projects were the ones who had already conducted their Oral History. I also think anytime students can interact with adults outside of the typical power relationship structures of parent/teacher/boss is a great thing. I’d love to find a way to help my students get more of these experiences.
  • Also, the aforementioned desire for books and visual art could fit in here as well.
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