History 420 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
Examining the Characteristic of Good History Teachers
During our first week, we focused on how to create a collaborative learning community and on the controversies that have long surrounded the teaching of history. One of the things we learned is that there is quite a gap between what the public believes is American history and what history teachers believe to be American history. For the next three days, we are going to try to bridge that gap a bit by talking about the characteristics of good history teachers. By understanding what we should expect from ourselves as history teachers in the making, we can better explain our stance to the public.
- To examine what Robert Fried in The Passionate Teacher calls our "stance" as teachers.
- To critically think about the characteristics of good history teachers.
But first, let's do two things as we review our last week's discussion on the History Wars and the difficulties of teaching history in a divided nation.
Methods Discussion: Write Around. We had a good discussion about the content related to the History Wars. Now, how do I assess what you all have learned? The Write Around is a great assessment tool. Please take the following steps:
- Step 1: Get into groups of at least three and no more than four persons each. Each of you needs a piece of lined paper. Write your name on the paper and then write "Write Around Activity." As you work on the assignment below, please follow these rules:
- Use legible writing
- Use every minute of time you are allowed to write. Keep your pen/pencil moving until I ask you to stop.
- Please do not talk. This is a silent activity.
- Step 2: Each person will spend 3 minutes writing a response to the following question: What do you believe is the single most important thing that pre-teachers should know about the History Wars? PLEASE DO NOT WRITE DOWN THE QUESTION - JUST BEGIN WRITING YOUR RESPONSE.
- Step 3: After 3 minutes, I will ask you to pass your response to the person on your left. Take 5 minutes to read what was written by the other group member and write YOUR response beneath it.You can agree or disagree, add an additional comment, ask questions, share a connection ("that reminds me ..."), or raise a whole new idea. Just keep the conversation going.
- Step 4: Pass your response to the person on your left. Take 5 minutes to read what was written by the two other group members and respond as explained above in Step 3.
- Step 5: Pass your response to the person on your left. Take 8 minutes to read what was written by the three other group members and to respond as explained above in Step 3.
- Step 6: Pass the paper back to the original writer. Take 5 minutes to read what your originally wrote and what your other group members wrote in response. Then, underline/highlight what you believe is the single most important sentence that anyone wrote - including yourself.
- Step 7: Working together as a group and taking turns, each of you should read out loud the single most interesting sentence you marked. After all of you have read your sentence, take 5 minutes to decide if you can agree that any one sentence best explains what pre-teachers should know about the History Wars. If you cannot agree, see if your group can write a new sentence that best describes your group sentiment. Elect a group spokesperson to share your thoughts with the entire class.
Be sure to keep your "Write Around" method activity. It will go into your Portfolio.
Now, let's briefly discuss most important things we should know about the History Wars.
Goal #1: To examine what Robert Fried in The Passionate Teacher calls our "stance" as teachers
What is a stance? According to the dictionary, a stance is "the attitude of a person or organization toward something; a standpoint."
- What do you think it means that teachers need to have a stance?
- Should everyone's stance be similar? Why or why not?
- Can we share some of our visions for our stance?
Goal #2: To critically think about the characteristics of good history teachers
Good history teachers..
- Use the tools of historians, especially primary documents, historiography, and debate. Such teachers teach students to examine primary documents for evidence to support the historical record and their viewpoints, encourage them to raise questions about history, and require them to analyze and compare historians' competing and often controversial views in the classroom setting.
- Know and question historical interpretation and eagerly embrace controversy. Such teachers continue to search for and incorporate new and diverse historical content and innovative teaching methods into their classrooms and revise their beliefs about history as they learn more content.
- History teachers, then, are often revisionists. As such, they engage in an on-going process of reexamining the past and deconstructing myths based upon new discoveries, evidence, and perspectives.
- History teachers must relate how controversy has shaped history - and that through the use of debate and compromise have we made much progress.
- Cold Call: Second cold call on the required viewing - Without Sanctuary at http://withoutsanctuary.org/main.html
Methods Discussion: Do Now. This activity is done at the beginning of class to have students think about a current event OR elsewhere in the class when you want to assess something you have just been discussing. It should be between 5-15 minutes, depending on the level of complexity of what you are asking students to think about. So please do the following:
- Take out a piece of paper and write your name and "Do Now " at the top.
- Take 5 minutes to address these three questions: What is DACA? Why is DACA in the news today? Why is it especially important for teachers to understand DACA?
- Please be prepared to discuss this with your classmates.
Be sure to keep this and put it in your Portfolio.
Now, back to what are the qualities of good teachers. Good teachers
- Are passionate about history and about teaching history, and such passion helps them create respectful classroom environments. Such teachers show their passion for teaching, hear
their students and respect their voices, allow students to freely express their
intellectual thoughts and personal opinions, encourage students to respect
and listen to diverging viewpoints and attitudes, and continuously use
new teaching methods that fit student needs.
- Understand and use the social sciences in their classrooms. Such teachers especially incorporate geography, political science, sociology - as well as music and art - into their lessons.
- Collaborate with colleagues. Such teachers engage in discussions
with colleagues, ask for advice and mentoring, and talk with teachers at
other school sites, educators at professional conferences, and with fellow
subscribers to professional journals.
- Are life long learners and active myth busters, search for new research and resources to enliven their classroom discussions, and embrace new technologies. Such teachers understand that they must stay on top of new research, read the newest books on topics related to their teaching content, and learn how to use the newest technology in their classrooms.
- History teachers must understand the power of myths, especially that sometimes myths are more powerful than the facts. This may be the most important point of your required viewing for today - Lisa the Iconoclast (The Simpsons, Season 7, Episode 16) -http://www.animetoon.eu/the-simpsons-season-7-episode-16
- Cold Call: Third cold call on required viewing - Lisa the Iconoclast.
- History teachers must embrace the newest technology. An example is learning to use podcasts as a way to keep ourselves informed and as a way to inform our students. Assignment #1 - Teaching with Podcasts- is a an example of how you can use podcasts in both capacities. Click here to access the assignment.
- Seek to understand their students. Such teachers work hard to understand who their students are both in and out of the classroom. To get a better understanding of who our students may be, we need to examine Herb Childress 's article. Later this month, we will get an even better understanding when we discuss both Ta-Nehisi Coates' book and the video "Growing Up Trans."
- Cold Call: Fourth cold call on required reading - "17 Reasons why Football is better than High School.
- Make connections between the past and the present. Such teachers show students that history is relevant to their lives by illustrating how the present is illuminatedby the past. (You may also want to examine this effort to make history relevant by relating how the decisions made during and after World War I contributed to the 21st Century rise of Isis.)
- Understand the importance of chronological understanding. Such teachers understand that chronological thinking is at the heart of historical reasoning. Without a clear sense of historical time-time past, present, and future-students are bound to see events as one great tangled mess. Without a strong sense of chronology - of when events occurred and in what temporal order - it is impossible for students to examine relationships among them or to explain historical causality. Chronology provides the mental scaffolding for organizing historical thought.
- Celebrate diversity, model democracy, and teach for social justice. Such teachers create a classroom in which students learn about the multicultural makeup of the American people, teach about democracy and model democratic values, and help students understand that they do their best work when they strive to make society more just.
- Are storytellers who who use carefully crafted themes to emphasize their story. Such teachers develop and teach from a list of overall course themes that provide "bottom
line" messages for their students, create lessons that illustrate the themes,
and encourage students to demonstrate their knowledge of the themes, as
well as critique and create new themes of their own.
Methods Discussion: Do Now Assessment. Often, you will want to check in with your students to see how the class is going and how you are doing. This is a time when you want an HONEST assessment of what your students are learning, their comfort level with the classroom environment, and their thoughts about what could be improved. Keeping this in mind, please do the following:
- Take out a piece of paper, put your name and the caption "Do Now Assessment" at the top.
- Take 8 minutes to address these questions:
- Do you feel the material presented so far is helping you to better understand the complexities of teaching history? Why or why not?
- Do you feel safe expressing your thoughts and ideas in the class? Why or why not?
- What could be improved in terms of course content and the classroom environment during the remaining 12 weeks of the class?
When you are done, please turn this in to the professor. Your answers will be confidential and used only by the professor to improve the class content and environment.