Historical History

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

14 August 2009

It's Been Too Long

I was going through my list of favorites on my Internet tab and I saw "Blogger." I thought to myself, "??? I still have this?" So, I click on the tab and the page loads showing me that I have not posted anything since April! Which brings me to my current state, sitting at the computer in our office/babies room typing a post that will update my status to anyone who may or may not read this blog.

It is the middle of August, schools are beginning to start and I wish I could say i was preparing for my first year of teaching. Unfortunately, social studies teachers are not among those "in high demand" in the world of education. In fact I even had a principal during one of my interviews tell me "we" (social studies teachers) are a dime a dozen. I live in Liberty, Mo. and I have applied and interviewed at almost every school district with in 30 miles. Now is not a good time for recently graduated teachers. At first I thought, maybe it was something I was doing wrong; poor interviews, not calling back enough, little to no connections, but then I spoke with individuals I had graduated with, only to hear the same story coming from them. Knowing that i was not the only one made feel better. Currently, I am still employed as a substitute for both Liberty and Park Hill School District, which is good because it will keep in the districts and keep my classroom management skills sharp.

In other news, my beautiful wife is pregnant in her third trimester with our first child. We found out last month that we will be parents to baby girl! People often ask me if i was disappointed with that fact, but honestly, I am just glad to have a healthy baby. So far the doctors have said that she is progressing well and appears to be healthy. We have decided on naming her after my wife's middle name, which is Grace. Last Monday we had an appointment with the OB/GYN and he said he thought Grace might be "breached," but that at this stage it should not worry us. Most people may think we're crazy, but in addition to the arrival of Grace we have recently gotten another puppy. Bringing our grand total to three, yes three dogs. Our newest dog is the same as the other two, Shiz Tzu/Maltese, and his name is Jake.

07 April 2009

Xtranormal Assignment

Wow! I cannot believe it has been more than a month since my last posting. For those who are avid followers of this blog, assuming there are any, I apologize for not posting sooner. Today I'd like to post about a website I have mentioned before, called xtrnoraml. I have embedded the link into the title of this post, however, the link is www.xtranormal.com. I am posting about it again because I have recently used this website in my Women's Studies class at Park Hill High School.

In my Women's Studies class we are working our way throught the roles and significance of women during the Early modern period of history. Looking at specific women, like Marie Antoinette, Cathrine the Great, Abigail Adams, and others, the girls have been studying the opprotunities and loack of opprotunities afford to women during this era in history. Their assignment was to use this website to role play a scene with main focus being on issues these women faced on a day to day basis.

The assignment took the entire block (90 minutes) to complete. Each had to create a free account and username and password. Once they had created an account they were free to explore the site and creat their own short movie. All they had to do was create a dialogue with a partner and type their script into the appropriate boxes. The movie my class made were very creative and entertaining, both for me and the class. The class had a great time using their creativity to make and direct their own short film. I have included a few examples of some the films they made. Please enjoy.

01 March 2009

Sacco and Vanzetti

As I was preparing for this weeks discussions in my AP United States history class, I came across this mini documentary of the famous Sacco and Vanzetti case. I think this video does a good job with describing the case and more importantly, the reactions during and after the case. I plan to use this video this week to generate discussion about prejudice and the effects it can have government and individuals, hopefully demonstrating that this case was not simply a case of two immigrant anarchist's who may or may not have robbed and murdered, but about the hysteria of eliminating potential threats to the "American" way of life.
Sacco and Vanzetti - Watch more funny videos here

11 February 2009

Parent-Teacher Confrences

Tonight we have parent-teacher conferences at Park Hill High School. This will be my first experience with parents without the assistance of a more experienced teacher than myself. Previously, the only experience I have had was during my time at Liberty, where I conducted conferences with parents alongside Doug Winkler, my cooperating teacher. I do not foresee any complications with parents, because I am teaching four sections of Advanced Placement United States History. Therefore, these students are generally those who have a genuine desire to learn the history of America.

Park Hill conducts their conferences a bit differently than Liberty. At Liberty, the teachers go to their assigned table and hope a parent or two shows up. In contrast, parents at Park Hill have prearranged when they plan on meeting with the teacher. This is good, because I have an idea of how busy my evening is going to be. As I am sitting in the gymnasium at a table designated as mine, by the folded manila card stock with my name on it, I can see parents coming and going, sitting and standing, nodding in agreement with whatever the teacher is saying. And it makes me stop and think about the life of a teacher.

As a teacher, thus far in my career, I get up early, teach to 50 - 60 students a day, spend multiple hours after school preparing for the next day, go home, kiss the wife, and fall asleep around 8:00 or 9:00. Then, the alarm goes off at 5:45am and I begin the cycle all over. So, as I am watching all that is going on around me, I am wondering, "What sort of an impact am I really making?" "What do these parent teacher conferences really accomplish?" I would like to think that meeting the parents will motivate them to meet with their student at home to improve their performance in the classroom. Or do these conferences merely allow the parents face time with their student's teachers so the parent can feel comforted by the fact that their students is not being taught by an incompetent individual, ignorant to the content of the classroom?

For me, meeting the parents allow give me a better understanding of my students. There are some parents, who, once you have met them, all questions or concerns about their student are immediately answered. Other parents leave me with more questions about their student than when I first began. I think that this experience will be one more thing to prepare me for my full time teacher position, wherever that may be. I hope that, in the future, I am able to take the lessons I have learned here and at Liberty and apply them to influence the students in the most positive and efficient way. If you are a teacher and have similar experiences or advice for a green teacher, like myself, please feel free to share your comments or stories by commenting to this blog.

28 January 2009

Women's Studies Project

The other day I was teaching my Women's Studies class and it was one of those days, where I can literally see the eyes rolling into the back of their heads. Obviously, something was not going right. I was not enjoying the class and it was abundantly clear the students were not having a good time either. In the middle of my rambling I stopped and said, "Okay, this obviously isn't working. What do you want from this class? You chose this class, so what do you hope to get out the class?" The students, taken back a bit, looked at each other, . . .then me, . . .then at each other again. Finally, after a moment of awkward silence a student in the back quietly said, "Maybe we could do a project or something."

Thus, an idea was born! We were painfully trying to get through the role of women in a variety of cultures from the ancient world. I went home that night and put some thought to how I could get the students to learn the information in a way that they enjoyed and learned something from at the same time.

I decided that I would let the students do the work by researching the cultures and, as a group, present their findings to the class. I broke the students into four groups and gave each group an ancient civilization: Roman, Spartan, Jewish, or Greek. As a group, they researched the culture, any historical events, and two to three significant women from that society. Their task was to put all their research in a coherent PowerPoint presentation, where they could be as creative they wished. I allotted three days to research, using laptops, and create their presentation.

I would love to know if you have any suggestion for how I could do a project similar to this in the future, or if you have done something similar. Please share your ideas and constructive criticism. Today they are on their second day of research, and already a problem I am running into is keeping a class full of girls on task. I am hearing more stories of gossip and less of ancient civilizations. Every few minutes I am reminding them to stay on task.

I really enjoy the class, but I am having trouble keeping them engaged in the material. In addition, since there is no set curriculum, I am having to develop a curriculum as I go along. The teacher, who I have replaced left a vague outline where the class should go, which has been a lot of help thus far, but I am getting the feeling that as the semester progresses I will have to come up with other material. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated.

22 January 2009

Parkhill School District

Last week I was offered a long term substitute position at Park Hill School District, to fill in for a teacher who teaches four sections of AP US History and one section of Women's Studies. Nervously, I accepted the job and have been at Park Hill since Tuesday of this week. It was a transition I had never experienced before; leaving the comfort zone of one district and moving to another.

My first day at the new school I was thrown into classes without much preparation. It was as if I were thrown into a pool and were trying to put my feet on the bottom, without knowing how far the bottom of the pool was beneath me. It took about two days, but I think I'm starting to find the bottom of the pool. The AP classes are blocked every other day, which is great, because it allows my a day in between to prepare. On the other hand, the Women's Studies class is blocked everyday. I think if I had a week or so to plan for this class I could make it an entertaining and intriguing class. The teacher, who I've stepped in for, did a fantastic job at preparing the material I will need for the next few months. I have started to develop my own system for preparing for each class. Because this is my first classroom, I am not yet at point where I feel confident enough to walk in moderately prepared and deliver a fantastic lecture about any given point in US history; therefore, I have been reading, taking notes, and creating PowerPoints everyday this week. Today was the first day I gave a lecture to the AP class and I think it went well. The students seemed engaged and entertained. I think if I can stay a chapter ahead of them, I'll be fine for the rest of the semester. However, I can potentially see myself becoming exhausted in a few weeks if I stay as busy I was this week. Only time will tell, but I am starting to feel more comfortable in my new environment.

I know that this experience will be a learning experience no matter if it is a good or bad experience, and I believe if I stay positive and work hard, good things will come. I know that sounds incredibly optimistic, but I have a feeling this is just one more stepping stone in my journey through education. If you have a similar experience, I would love to hear about, please feel free to post a comment at the bottom. Thank you and have a great fantastic day!

13 January 2009


Have you ever done "role playing" in the classroom? If you teach anything, then I would be willing to bet you have done some sort of role play. While role playing is fun for students and educational, wouldn't it be awesome if your students could write and direct their own short film about the unit being taught? Well, they can! It is called xtranormal and the students can write the script, select the actors, the set, and various camera angles. It is a fascinating tool to be used in the classroom. If you have been keeping up to date with this blog, you know I do not have a classroom of my own yet, but if you have used this website in your classroom I would love to know how it went.

I have created a sample film to see what sort of things it could do, and I was absolutely amazed. If your school district is fortunate enough to have laptops in the classroom or a computer lab, then this can be used for your class. This website allows the students to be their own directors and shoot movies that pertain to the subject matter being taught, which can be shared with the whole class as a review or teaching method. If you haven't already checked it out, go take a look. I have embedded the link in the title of this post. Camera, Lights, ACTION!

12 January 2009

I Prefer "Alternate" Teacher

I walk into a classroom I have only seen while doing observations after student teaching with a key, an ID tag that reads, "SUBSTITUTE", and a folder. The folder contains information for the substitute about the classes and the full-time teachers expectations. I enter the room, find the light switch, and sit down at the desk to prepare my mind for the day. On the desk is a piece of paper with clearly written direction for how the lessons should be taught. I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and exhale. This will be my first experience as a substitute teacher.

My mind is racing with ideas and jokes to start the class, do I tell the one about the teacher who..., or the two guys that..., or how will I introduce myself? Fortunately, I was taught that, "Early is on time, and on time is late," so I have about twenty minutes before the first class is suppose to begin. I suppose the first thing I should do is write my name on the board, so I do. In fat bubble letters, I write, "Mr. SUMMIT," and draw a mountain underneath it with an arrow pointing to the top. Since the top of a mountain is known as the summit, it makes sense. Before I know it, the bell has rung and slowly students begin to enter the once peacefully quiet classroom. As they enter I begin to hear, "Are you our sub?" "Awesome a sub!" "Where is Mr. Gates?" all of which I will answer in a few moments.

BING, BING, the tardy bell has rung and it is time to begin. I close the door to the hallway and all fear or anxiety disappears into I don't know where. I begin by saying,

"Good morning ladies and gentlemen! If you haven't noticed by now, Mr. Gates is M.I.A and therefore you are blessed with me. I will be your substitute for the day; however, I do not like the word 'substitute,' because to me, it means all sort of negative things. For that reason, I prefer alternate teacher, the replacement teacher, and for those thespians among us, the under-study to Mr. Gates."

I go on to explain that my name is Mr. Summit and I have drawn a picture for those "visual" learners. By now the class has loosened up and have laughed at least twice. That is my trick, my key, my tool, my whatever,...humor! If I can get the students to laugh or even smile, then it will be a good day.

I learned in my experience as a student teacher last semester, that humor is an essential piece of my teaching style. I believe that students remember more things they thought were funny, than things they fell asleep to. Case-and-point, why is it that almost every student can quote any Adam Sandler, Will Ferrel, or SNL movie? Because they're funny, they laugh, and they have a good time watching them; they are ENTERTAINED! I believe the same is true in the classroom; if I can entertain the students for an hour and teach them something at the same time, then I have done my job.

After my introduction, we transitioned into the planned lesson, which went smoother than I had anticipated. The students were engaged in the discussion and were asking questions, some of which I could answer, some of which I could not, but that is okay. It is okay to admit you DON'T know everything, because you don't. In my experience, the students will respect you more for admitting you were wrong or that you don't know something, than if you pretend like you know everything and give them a bogus answer.

Classes came and went throughout the day and I had an incredible time teaching those students. I realized that I had been needing to get back in the classroom. I have subbed twice since the start of the semester and it seems like I cannot get in the classroom enough. Being a substitute has merely enhanced my desire to have a classroom of my own. For those of you teachers who already have your own classroom, cherish it, for you are fortunate. If you have a similar experience you would like to share, please post a comment. Thank you and remember, history teachers prepare students for the future by teaching about the past!

06 January 2009

Maps of War

There is a website called, Maps of War, that is absolutely fascinating. It is especially useful for any teacher teaching world history. In the site you will find animation that briefly shows the expansion of empires in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. In addition, there are animations depicting the history and expansion of religion across the world, which is essential to teaching world history. Beyond that, there are animations and links to describe a variety of historical warfare, from WWI to the Iraq War.

I first learned of this site from a social studies teacher at Liberty High School, where I student taught. I thought the animation, which I have included in this post, was so remarkable that I shared it with one of my college professors at William Jewell College, who teaches a survey course of Middle Eastern history. He responded to my e-mail by saying how much he enjoyed it and that he would be using it in class the next day. I know that I have not been a teacher for very long, but I know that this site has a lot of information to offer to students who are longing to learn from the technology they have been surrounded by since their birth.

I urge any social studies teacher or anyone who is curious to explore this site, I guarantee it will not be time ill spent. If you have seen this before or have used it in the classroom, please comment and tell me how you taught it. Thank you.