Creating the Space for Engaged Discussions

It’s a new academic year, and optimism and energy are in abundant supply. There are new ideas for class, new ways to engage students, and great questions to wrestle with as the intersections between past and present have rarely been so obvious. And it all goes swimmingly, it seems, until the first time we actually…

Summer Reading: Teaching and Learning

One of the perks of working at my institution is a somewhat unusual academic calendar in which our graduation occurs the last Saturday in April. We may start our spring semester alarmingly soon after New Year’s, but it’s all worth it come May and nearly four months of open time beckons. This longer summer recess…

Teaching US History in the Long Nineteenth Century

A few years ago, as part of a general curricular revision, my department moved to a three-semester sequence for both our World and US History surveys. There were several reasons we made the move: we wanted more room to focus on the particular outcomes these courses embodied as part of our university’s core curriculum (particularly…

Teaching US History Online: Some Reflections

Next semester, I’ll be offering an online version of my Civil War and Reconstruction course. This is the third time I’ll be teaching this upper-level, reading- and writing-intensive course in a fully online environment. Thanks to being a part of the initial cohort of the Council of Independent Colleges’ Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction, I’ve…

Frederick Douglass and an “Unfit” Education

This week in my U.S. survey, we’re discussing Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of an American Slave. It’s a venerable text, and used so often in the survey that it almost feels like a cliche’ when I assign it. But Douglass is, you might have heard, doing a terrific job that’s being recognized by…

What’s in Your Pedagogy Toolbox?

A few weeks ago, at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Denver, I had the opportunity to chair a session centered around rethinking History Ph.D. education. It was a great conversation, and the two panelists–both Ph.D. students doing some really remarkable work–powerfully articulated the ways in which we can expand some of…

Inclusive Teaching in Exclusionary Times

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it feels like an out-of-body experience trying to write a post that engages with teaching and learning US History in this particular historical moment. My students are finding it difficult to remove themselves from their urgent and fraught present; my colleagues perhaps even more so.…

Getting Out of Grading Jail

Next week on my campus, we will hit midterms. And with midterm week comes an even larger pile of grading that annexes even more of my desk. A colleague of mine used to joke about going to “grading jail”–“Hard time with no parole.” Yet it really starts to feel that way when we’re slogging through…

Why We’re Here

The start of a new semester may not be the best time for deep existential questions, but I like to ask them anyway. Why are we here? I’m not asking metaphysically, however, but rather in the more immediate sense. I return to the question every time I start a new set of classes, largely because…