Worn Out Lecture Notes: Centering Students in Pedagogy

In my first college-level history class, I can distinctly remember the professor pulling out lecture notes from his frayed-edged leather briefcase. The worn legal pad pages were curled, having been weathered by repeated use. To say this professor had been at the university for decades felt like an understatement – rather, I’d say he had…

A Foray into Ancient History

The spring semester is going to be weird. I have a half-time course release from directing my university’s teaching center, as well as another course release funded by a grant project, so I’m only teaching one course–and it’s the first part of our World History survey, “The Ancient World.” What this means is that, for the…

Agency, Counterfactuals, and “Utopias of Past Time”

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.—The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Karl Marx…

Teaching is not a gift

Surrounded by gifts, as many of us are this time of year, and looking forward to the next semester, I am trying to remind myself of the ways that my teaching is not a gift. Anyone regularly reading this site already knows how dangerous it is to think of good teaching as a gift. Often those…

Mixtape Assignment in the Classroom

Every semester I try something new in the classroom. Sometimes this may involve adding activities such as the fish bowl, working in the archives, or having students write on the board to generate ideas. I take these assignments and tweak them as I go along because, as we know, every class is not the same.…

Explicit Teacher Purpose in the History Classroom

This semester, I’ve been wrestling with curricular issues in world history, as well as investigating the role of teacher purpose, particularly when it comes to history classes. Teacher purpose, whether implicit or explicit, impacts teacher content and pedagogical decisions. When I talk about teacher purpose, I don’t just mean content deliverables or state-mandated learning targets. Instead,…

On Banning Laptops….Again. (Sigh)

I’m hesitant to wade into this issue again, as I’ve done so before and watched my Twitter mentions and email catch fire as a result. But a week or so ago, the New York Times published yet another installment in the tired debate over whether laptops (or, by extension, any digital devices) are helpful or…

Curiosity and Curtailing the Convenient Narrative

Few topics evoke such genuine intellectual curiosity amongst my overly achievement conscious students as the American Civil War. As a teacher, this proves fortunate, given that our study of the late antebellum period and war years typically falls after a ten-day break for the Thanksgiving holiday and before an eighteen-day winter vacation. As you might…

Podcasts as Models for Historical Essays

My U.S. Economic History course begins again this spring, and it is a popular course among history secondary education and middle school education students here at Fitchburg State. But it also draws from students in Economics and Business, particularly Marketing and Accounting. As such, I’m tasked with making the course useful to more than the…