As I near the end of a somewhat unusual semester, I wanted to reflect a bit on my experiences as a Teaching Fellow for a course on the American Revolution. This semester I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to deliver a number of lectures. And it has gotten me thinking about the lecture as both a piece of writing and a pedagogical tool. The purpose of this post is mostly to throw out some things that have occurred to me throughout the semester but to also get thoughts from those of you with experience giving lecture courses. Continue reading
Or, How I Stopped Hating Finance and Learned to Love the Business Major
Settling in to my first semester as a TA this fall, I was stoked. Yes, stoked. Unbelievably enthusiastic about my teaching assignment: Early American Maritime Culture. I thought about all the port cities we would study, the trade routes we would map, and maybe for good measure we’d throw in an impressment or two. This first-time TA was assigned to a course in her field. Huzzah!
We’re barreling toward the end of the semester, which always feels closer once Thanksgiving’s over. As the Brits don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here, I’m in the midst of doing mid-semester evaluations with students this week A) To remind them that the semester really is more than half over and B) To try to suss out what is and isn’t working in our class.
Today at The Junto, we’d like to ask you, our readers, to reflect on your teaching so far this semester, and to encourage people to use the comments to share ideas and troubleshoot.
This semester I’m teaching Revolutionary America, a class which has allowed me to ease into teaching because my dissertation (ahem: book manuscript) focused on the more narrow topic of Native and enslaved foodways during and after the war.
I’ve framed the class around the question of how ordinary people experienced the Revolution. Lately I’ve been talking with students about the declension narrative pervasive in Native American history, because it’s one of the things I’m contemplating as I begin to think about revisions. Continue reading
Today’s guest post comes from Ben Wright, a doctoral candidate at Rice University, who focuses on religious conversion and early American antislavery. He is the co-editor of Apocalypse and the Millennium in the Era of the American Civil War (LSU, 2013), the editor of the Teaching United States History blog, and co-editor of The American Yawp.
Like many of you, I find myself teaching the first half of the U.S. history survey this fall. The first few times through the course, I used a textbook and appreciated the clear organizational structure and built-in pacing. Teaching with a textbook felt like teaching with training wheels, and I certainly needed them for my first few laps. But as my confidence grew, so did my desire to assign primary sources, articles, monographs, museum catalogs, and other readings. While I am impressed with the quality of many texts – Eric Foner’s Give Me Liberty, and Kevin Schultz’s HIST are among my favorites – I cannot justify assigning an (often outrageously) expensive textbook if it is not going to be the cornerstone of my course. But my course evaluations often include requests for textbooks, particularly among athletes or other students with serial absences. I have tried placing a textbook on reserve, but in the three semesters of doing so, no one has ever checked out the book. It seems like our discipline could use an affordable, synthetic safety net for students who would like one. Continue reading
In all the teaching orientations and training manuals I’ve encountered, they all advise instructors not to be afraid of silence. The average student, they say, takes up to 8 seconds to mentally prepare an answer to an analytical query. But what happens when the silence isn’t because students are choosing which of their brilliant thoughts to share with the class but because most of them failed to do the reading? I suspect every college teacher has had a class session in which most questions were met with complete silence. What can we, as the instructors, do in such situations? And how can we better incentivize students to take their assigned reading seriously? Continue reading
The Junto has published a number of posts about early America in popular culture and media. Until the last few years, films and television shows about early America have been relatively scarce, outside a number of multi-episode public television and cable documentaries. However, in addition to HBO’s John Adams, there are a number of projects in the works including a television series about the Sons of Liberty and another about John Brown. As the semester nears and my teaching duties turn to the American Revolution, I have inevitably been thinking about early American multimedia in the undergraduate classroom. Continue reading
It is well known that Lowell Mason (1792-1872) was a major figure in 19th-century American music education. He pioneered the first public school music curriculum in Boston in the 1830s, and thanks, in part, to his efforts music was a integral part of public education for the next 150+ years. If you studied music in grade school, you can thank (or blame) Mason. My own career as an educator and a musician is indebted to Mason’s innovations. With the fall semester about to begin, I find myself wondering about the intellectual, pedagogical, and personal lineages between teachers and students. What can I learn from Lowell Mason’s “family tree” of teachers? Can tracing our own lineages help us understand what kind of teachers we are? Continue reading
This fall, I’m teaching a freshman U.S. history survey with a couple of unusual requirements. First, my class covers American history, from the seventeenth century to the twentieth, in a single frenzied semester. Second, and also by school policy, all the readings in the course must be biographical. Continue reading