Posts Tagged ‘teaching college’

Two things going on in my mind simultaneously. I have an interview this afternoon for a tt job. I also have a bit of a crush on our costumer (I was in a play this last month, which is why you didn’t hear much from me). I should be thinking about the academic interview (they want me to be able to teach both sections of the US History survey, and I haven’t thought about the first half in a long time), but instead I’m wondering if this woman is gay, and if she is, would she be interested in a fatty like me. Seeing the pictures from the play really brought home to me just how much weight I’ve gained lately and how much work I need to do to lose it. *SIGH*

But, ok. Let’s think about this. What would I teach if I taught the first half of the US syllabus? Certainly the interaction between the three major cultural groups–African, European, and Indian. The different denominations of Christianity. The rise of the Enlightenment paralleling the Great Awakening. But what about specific books? I taught Equiano, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Jacobs last semester. All are so not “normal” slaves, but they get across a lot of interesting information about slavery and Africa and America. Each also encouraged students to take away lessons that I would rather they not–for instance, in Douglass’ case, that most slaves did not resist, that most slaves were so terrorized that they rolled over and took it. Now, sometimes I wonder if the relative absence of large scale slave revolts in the US suggests that enslaved peoples adapted to their circumstances more than we sometimes discuss (as if I have read much about slavery–but I get the sense that contemporary authors look for resistance and agency in every way they can). But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t resist in myriad “small” daily ways, in order to continue to maintain their humanity. Maybe I could talk about the love stories between enslaved people that were in that one collection of primary sources–that’s a great source and was really compelling for the students.

But how can I show that I know more about the period than African American history? I just emailed a grad school colleague who specializes in Native American history–maybe he will share his syllabus with me, though I doubt it would be before 2 o’clock.

Hmmm found a cool teacher’s syllabus about teaching US History within a world context. A lot of the topics are familiar, though many of the readings are new. Will study this for awhile.


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I forget the kinds of things they need their hand held through. I think I’ve given enough direction, but then there’s a ton of questions and/or mistakes all on the same thing. At least if my instructions were more thorough, there wouldn’t be room for interpretation of what I meant. Ugh.

For instance, they need to write a paper on their group presentation. Both paper and presentation should be based on research. I did the research for them and provided them with citations. Unfortunately, I forgot to go over how to access JSTOR or how to get a book. Most of them have figured it out, but a few are very confused and then used the wrong sources for their papers (or no sources, which equates to using the documentary as a source without citing it).

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What is the main point of your work? What do you want the other students to take away from your presentation or discussion?

So I asked the students today who presented or led discussion. So I ask of myself all the time about my own work. I feel like I am like them–going on and on about the content without explain why it is significant or why we should care. A senior scholar is coming next week to give the Martin Luther King Jr. Day lecture and I am hosting her. I’m so excited to talk to her about my book, but at the same time terrified that I won’t know what to say. She is the soul of kindness, so I’m not scared of her, but I am nervous that I will prattle on about the archival minutia without explaining the overall significance. Although, when she read my book proposal, she said that I should include more archival gems in it. So maybe she won’t mind hearing about the details.

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3 week class

I’m in the midst of teaching a 3 week class on the global anti-apartheid movement. We’ve finished the first 1 and 2 days. In the middle now, I feel like I’ve made a few mistakes that I always make in my classes–i.e. focusing on content rather than historical thinking, having each day be something new and unique without connecting everything together. Maybe that’s what I’ll do tomorrow–have them do an in-class writing exercise that tries to put everything we’ve discussed so far into context. Tomorrow is the “New Generation” film, which goes over Black Consciousness and the Soweto uprising. I thought about doing a mini-lecture on 1968 student uprisings all over the world. I don’t know how connected the Soweto uprising (given that it was junior high and high school students, not university students) was to the rest of the world uprisings. I also feel like I’ve totally failed in terms of dates–helping students to see what went on before and after. In part that is because the first two papers that I have read don’t have a single date in them.

I’m also thinking about historical methodology b/c i asked some folks how not to repeat in a US History survey what the students did in high school and the unanimous response was students just learn content in H.S. without learning the way historians think. Now I’m trying to figure out how historians think. Ha! That’s why this blog has to be anonymous (as much as I can make it that way) because I want to talk about my failings (b/c sometimes that’s all I can see) and in academia we’re supposed to pretend to have it all together.

Speaking of which, I had an interview this week. Right afterwards I felt really good about it, but later I got to thinking about their question “What are your strengths and weaknesses in teaching” and realized that I probably said too much about my weaknesses. I also think I said too many general things, like “I’m friendly and approachable” and I want to reach every student rather than an actual historical goal. Aieeee.

Dance rehearsal at 2. Maybe I’ll actually get it together by then. Ha!

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