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
Last Wednesday, the Brown Bag series at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies hosted a conversation with Dallett Hemphill, the current editor of Early American Studies. For those who were not able to attend, we at The Junto wanted to summarize the discussion and invite you to participate.
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
“There’s just one question I have to ask,” said the pleasant young man at the US Embassy, reviewing my visa application. “You are aware that we won, right?”
As a Brit teaching early American history in the U.S., I get some version of this question quite a lot. And it’s something I play up to in my own classes, as well. Many of my courses begin with the warning: “If you learn nothing else over the next 15 weeks, you will understand what it is like to be subject to arbitrary British despotism.” When teaching the Boston Massacre, I jest that I’m worried to give too much information, just in case my students get ideas. And in teaching colonial history, I remind my students that the history we cover is as British as it is American.