Historical History

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History teachers PREPARE students for the FUTURE by teaching about the PAST

31 December 2008

Upon the Subject of Education

There is a quote from Abraham Lincoln that says, "Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in."

Since today is New Year's Eve, it is common for most people to reflect on the last 12 months and think of things that were good, things that were bad, or things that they have learned in the last year. It is that last one that I will dedicate this post to.

This year I have learned more about education, than in any other year of college. I started out 2008 by observing a first year American History teacher in a smalltown high school north of Kansas City. I spent the first seven weeks of the spring semester observing this teacher. While, he was only a first year teacher, it was a learning experience for me because I saw a sneak preview of what my first year teaching might look like. His room was not decorated with the typical social studies decor; flags, historical posters, maps, or even pictures. He was a good teacher, but I quickly saw that he and I had different styles of teaching. I will now be able to draw from that experience and do things differently in my own classroom. The students seemed to like him and relate to him, which taught me something else. That is, a decorated classroom does not always make you a good teacher. Good teachers are good teachers no matter the environment. My experience at this high school sparked the beginnings of my own teaching style and philosophy that all students can learn and it is my job, as their teacher, to find how they learn best and what motivates them to be successful in the classroom and in life.
The second seven weeks, I spent with the teacher I would be student teaching for in the fall. I spent the last half of my spring semester at Liberty High School, working with Doug Winkler, a veteran teacher of 20+ years, who teaches AP US History, AP World History, World History, and Government and Economics. In his classroom and at this high school is where I learned the most about education.
Those seven weeks in the spring were just to prepare me for the next semester, where I would be taking on full responsibility of the classroom as the student teacher. For that reason, most of the learning did not come until the fall. If someone were to ask me, "When should I student teach?" My answer would be in the fall, because as the student teacher you get the privilege of seeing behind-the-scenes of the classroom before the school year starts and the students arrive. I participated in the pre-school workshops and seminars, unpacking the textbooks, and helping Doug set up the classroom. These experiences were great because they gave me a sense of ownership in the classroom before school started; I was not trying to gain that ownership the first few weeks of school, I had already established it. I believe this also helps with gaining that "teacher" status with the students. Since I was there the first day of school, I was not viewed as a visitor or temporary figure in the classroom. I was given the same respect that Doug was given because I established my self as the teacher on day one. In fact, most students were shocked and surprised when I told them I wouldn't be back after winter break. I think that was one of the most important lessons I learned in 2008.

It is extremely important to classroom management that the teacher establishes themselves as such on day one; set high expectations and be consistent. If the students see you as the one in control of the classroom, then, in my experience, most behavioral issues are ousted before they begin.

My experience student teaching for Doug was something I will never forget. He taught me so many things that it would take too much time to recall all the lessons I've learned. I can say that I am a better teacher and more prepared for my own classroom having taught beside Doug Winkler. I am eager to enter the classroom on day one, hopefully something will open in my area so I can begin my journey through education!

25 December 2008

Christmas, Family, and Medication

Today is Christmas day and my wife, Alexa, and I decided that we were going to be spending the holiday alone, without traveling to either parents. My parents, on their way to Lincoln, NE., stopped in Kansas City to eat dinner with us. We did Christmas yesterday with them since we would not be in Lincoln with them. After they left our apartment, around 8:00pm, Alexa and I were laying in bed deciding what we were going to do for the rest of the evening. After some contemplation, we decided that if we left at that moment, we could make it to St. Louis and surprise her parents before 12:30am. So that is what we did. We packed enough clothes for a day, picked up the dogs, and drove to St. Louis in the middle of the night. We made really good time, because we got to Alexa's parents in three hours, a trip that usually takes three and half to four hours.

The in-laws were thoroughly surprised to see us. We had told them last week we were not going to be able to make it this year because of Alexa's job, but we decided we did not want to spend our first Christmas as man and wife alone. Unlike most people, who hate their in-laws, I enjoy coming to see Alexa's parents, it is never a dull moment at their house.

The next morning I woke up to a stuffy nose and dry throat, which was not the state I would have chosen for Christmas morning. Thankfully, I have a wonderful wife who got me medication and let me sleep until 11:30am. By the time I had gotten up, the whole family was downstairs preparing lunch, which consisted of potato casserole and honey baked ham. It does not seem like much, but we were snacking on pigs-in-a-blanket, smoked wienies, veggie tray, and cookies for appetizers before everything was done cooking. While sitting at the lunch table, which was decorated with Christmas decor, I realized how important family is. Family, while painfully frustrating at times, is the glue that keeps us all together. Without our families we could not survive. There were eight of us around the table for lunch; the parents, Alexa's two sisters and their men, and finally my wife and I. While eating lunch, Alexa and her sisters were telling stories of years long ago when they were children playing and terrorizing each other. It was a joy to watch my wife light up around her family, remembering experiences from her childhood. It made me think of times with my siblings and I realized I need to create more memories with my family, because I could not remember anything except times my brother or sister and I were fighting. Family and life are only temporary and should not be taken for granted. Cherish those good times with family and never stop having fun.

Following dinner, we all moved into the living room, where we passed out gifts. The gifts were nice, but the real gift was spending time with family. I'm glad we decided to make the trip in the middle of the night to come. I'm reminded of a quote from the animated movie, Kung Fu Panda, where the turtle says, "The past is history, the future is a mystery, but now is gift, that is why it is called 'present'." God bless and Merry Christmas everyone. Remember to spend some time with the ones who know you the best, your family.

24 December 2008

Google Video Chat

Today I decided I was going to figure this Google Video Chat out, but before I got started with that, I had to go to wrestling practice and work out with my wrestlers. Today was an intensive conditioning day, which means treadmill for 15 minutes and an assortment of high energy games in the gym. There were only a handful of varsity wrestlers who showed up, which made the games all that more entertaining. We played full court basketball, hockey, dodge ball, and threw in some sprints in between each game. You might be thinking, "What kind of wrestling team works out by playing games?" Well, since today is Christmas Eve, I and the other coach, decided we should have a little fun today. We ended up running around for a solid two hours, so, needless-to-say, we were all feeling pretty good by the end of practice.

Once I had gotten home and cleaned myself up from practice, I called my dad in St. Louis, Mo. to set up a video chat with him via our web cams. It took a few tries to get it working properly. First, in the contacts list, anyone you wish to video chat with needs to have a little green camera next to there name. That indicates that each party is capable of receiving video chats. Then, move your cursor over the name you wish to chat with and select "chat" or "video and more." It seems simple, but my dad kept having complications on his end.

It was my first time using the feature and I thought it was fantastic. If you don't already have a web cam, I would recommend getting one. There are multiple uses for it in the classroom. I observed an 8th grade American History teacher using it to chat with a representative from the Constitutional Convention Center in Philadelphia, PA. If you would like to know more about you go to his blog at www.speakingofhistory.blogspot.com. I hope to use Google Chat more in the future, I know the students in Mr. Langhorst's class enjoyed it and I'm sure other students will too.

23 December 2008

The Slide Show

I have embedded a link to the show in this post title. So feel free to watch and comment.

New Slide Shows

So, through the miracle of Twitter, I have discovered a new website that make creating slide shows fun and entertaining. It is called Slide.com and I've embedded the link in the title of the post. To give you an idea of what sort of slide shows it can create, you can click on the title of the next post to take you to the page.

There are so many possibilities for this site in the classroom. Students could create slide shows for homework, e-mail to the teacher, and be presented in class. A student could create a slide show of any topic from math to social studies. Create your own and enjoy!!

22 December 2008

Batman Unmasked, The Psychology of The Dark Knight

I love movies, I love watching them, going to see them, and buying them. Recently, my wife, who I absolutely love, bought me a Blu-Ray player for my birthday/Christmas. In addition, she bought The Dark Knight, which is a fantastic movie if you've never seen it. While the movie is amazing, I am posting about the special features and specifically how they could be used in the classroom. If you teach Psychology, then I would recommend obtaining a copy of The Dark Knight special features. Why? Because they have included a segment that discusses the psychology of Bruce Wayne, Batman, and his enemies. They have provided clinical explanations for how traumatic events, like witnessing the murder of ones parents, can impact a ten year old. The producers progress into the fascinating psychology between split personalities of Wayne and Batman, to include an explanation of his enemies like the Joker, the Riddler, Two-Face, Catwoman, and the Penguin. It is about 38 minutes in length and I found it to be entertaining and educational. I have included a segment of Batman Unmasked, The Psychology of The Dark Knight to give you a preview of the feature. I hope you will find it as interesting as I have. I am not sure if this featurette is on the regular DVD, but I know it is on the Blu-Ray version.

I believe students would love to see how the psychologist, theories, and methods of the real world have broken down the psyche of the man that is Batman. Since our students are driven by technology, the media, and Hollywood, why not bring it into the classroom and learn while being entertained.

21 December 2008

Digital Students

I believe that students today are becoming more tired of the traditional methods of teaching because they live in digital world that moves at a much faster rate than the world of a generation or two ago. As teachers, I believe we need to seek out new ways of reaching our students that empower them and give them a sense of ownership in the classroom. I believe technology is the key to unlocking our students true potential. This YouTube video explains the importance, significance, and possibilities of using technology in the classroom. Take some time to watch and let it impact you the way you impact your students.

20 December 2008

Lee's Summit Wrestling Tournament

Today was the second half of a two day wrestling tournament at Lee's Summit High School in Lee's Summit, MO. Overall, it was a good tournament for Liberty. Our wrestlers did much better the second day than the first, but it was not quite good enough to bring home the gold. Liberty placed 3rd, which is pretty good compared to the other teams who were there.

There were twenty-three teams from all over Missouri and a team who flew in from Idaho. While it made for a long weekend, I believe the experience was good for me, because I am still learning the in's and out's of coaching. I wrestled briefly in high school then switch to track and field; therefore, my wrestling expertise is limited. I have learned a lot from Liberty's head coach, Mike Hammer, and the assistants who have been around for quite some time.
One of the wrestlers at the tournament was the brother of US Olympic Greco Roman Wrestler, Spencer Mango. Spencer was nice enough to allow me to take a picture with, which could have been a better picture, but I was not going to say, "redo!" Spencer wrestled in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and his brother won first place at 125lbs. this weekend. Spencer Mango went to high school at Christian Brothers College in St. Louis, where he won state titles in 2003 and 2004. I have never met an Olympian before, but now I can cross that off my list.
Anyway, back to the tournament. Our wrestlers should have placed much higher than many of them did. About half of our guys placed either 3rd or 5th. There were multiple matches where our they made simple mistakes, which cost them the match. We have got some work to do when we get back from Christmas break. We have been drilling stand-ups, arm bars, and throws, but as soon as they get on the mat it seems like they forget everything we've drilled during practice. As I said before, we did well, but we should have done much better. After the tournament, they had an awards ceremony, where we received our 3rd place plaque.

I look forward to many more tournaments and duals with Liberty's wrestling team. It gives me a sense of accomplishment when I work with a kid in the wrestling room and see them succeed on the mat. There is something genuinely special about coaching that an individual cannot understand by teaching alone. Coaching allows you to see and interact with the students in a completely different environment and atmosphere, which helps establish and maintain those bonds in the classroom. It was always a highlight of my day when one of my wrestlers called me "coach" during class, rather than "Mr. Summit," which is what everyone calls me. I love teaching and I love coaching, there is no other job in the world that comes close to having the impact that teachers make in children's lives.

19 December 2008

The Destructive War

Currently, I am reading a book called The Destructive War by Charles Royster, which tells of the destructiveness of the Civil War. The back cover reads, "From the moment the Civil War began, partisans on both sides were calling not just for a victory but for extermination. And both sides found leaders who would oblige. In this vivid and fearfully persuasive book, Charles Royster looks at W.T. Sherman and Stonewall Jackson, the men who came to embody the apocalyptic passions of North and South, and re-creates their characters, their stages, and the feelings they inspired in their countrymen. At once and incisive dual biography, hypnotically engrossing military history, and a cautionary examination of the American penchant for patriotic bloodshed, The Destructive War is a work of enormous power."

I would agree that Royster spends a significant portion of the book describing the character and background of the two key Generals, but I would disagree that the book is "a work of enormous power." I have found the book enjoyable to read and he does provide a great detail of military history within the pages of the book. Currently, I am on page 150 of 417, if you don't count the 100 pages of notes at the end.

Royster brings up a good point that I had not considered when studying the Civil War in college. That is the underlying question of the war, which many have said was slavery. The south needed slavery to survive in their agricultural society, because the white southerners could not afford to loose the free labor. However, Royster argues that it was not the question of slavery, nor race relations, or the political cultures of the two, but that "the central question was whether or not citizens would place loyalty to the nation and obedience to its government ahead of all other loyalties" (Royster, pg. 139). The point I believe he is making is that many individuals, especially in the South, were more loyal to their state than to the nation as a whole. Robert E. Lee would not take command of the Union Army because his loyalties remain with his home state of Virginia, which was seceding from the Union. So then, the question of where ones loyalties lied became the true underlying question of the Civil War, according to Charles Royster.

Header Creation

Well, I did it! I found a way to create an individualized header. I had to go through a series of trial and error, but ultimately it worked. I used Microsoft Paint, uploaded a picture of the planet, and added the text I wanted. Then, I had go through a series of size adjustments to get the height and width to fit inside the blog header. I think if I play with this blog enough, I should become rather proficient at "blogging."

I have never been a blogger before, but with the advancements in technology, I am beginning to see that technology will help me be an effective educator, so I might as well begin learning now, before I enter the classroom.

18 December 2008


Eric Langhorst, an 8th grade social studies teacher, introduced me to this amazing website that allows the user to create "word clouds." Here are a few samples I created using Wordle. These are the Declaration of Independence and The Gettysburg Address.

The programs takes the document, poem, lyrics, or whatever, and makes the most frequently used words larger than the others. This allows students to see the documents or speeches in another way that might spark classroom discussion.

There are so many different ways a teacher could use this in the classroom. For example, before or after discussing the formation of American government I could show a series of word clouds containing the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. The students could either work in pairs or individually and try to determine which document is being presented. That is just one idea, if you have any other creative ways to use Wordle, please share.

Welcome to School

Welcome to School

I created a welcome video using Go Animate for my students on the first day of school and I am trying to upload the clip on the blog; however, I am having some difficulties.

So It Begins

I just created a blog spot to use as a teacher in the future. I plan to use this for all my education success and defeats. I got the idea from searching for and reading other teachers web pages. I do not have a classroom of my own yet, but I figure, why wait? I graduated from William Jewell College this December and spent the last semester student teaching for Liberty Public School District in Liberty, MO., which is like a northern suburb of Kansas City. In addition, I just got hired as a substitute teacher for the district, which I hope will help get a full-time teaching job in the district when, and if, one opens.

My first day of student teaching was an exciting day, which seems so long. I woke up, got ready, had breakfast with my wife, Alexa, and headed for the door. As I was about to leave, Alexa said, "Stop! We have to get a picture of your first day of school." Reluctantly, I agreed and she snapped a quick picture on my way out the door. Not my finest moment, but I am glad she had the idea to capture that moment in history. Whatever else I may forget, I will never forget what I wore on my first day of student teaching.