Friday, April 4, 2014

Teaching History


I would assume that all of us have had history classes in our lives.  I took the usual social studies curriculum in high school.  At the time, we had the option of either World Geography or World History followed by the second half of US history in 11th grade.  We took the first half in 8th grade.  Our senior year we took a semester of government and a semester of Economics.  I graduated in 1996 and so the curriculum has changed a few times since then.  The way it is taught in Texas with the first half of US history in 8th grade and the second half in 11th grade makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but I digress.

As a history major, I took a whole lot more classes in college and then even more in graduate school.  Needless to say, I've seen all sorts of history teachers in my life.  Some excellent, some average, and some were, shall we say, below average.  I've been teaching in one capacity or another since 2004.  I place myself in the average category, though I strive for excellence.  It seems like the big focus in education (both at the secondary school and the college level) is to "teach with technology".  I use power points, though mine usually just have pictures and a few words of text that have the main idea.  I show video clips.  And I use primary accounts of things whenever possible.  I also use a lot of music when I can.

However, I see a problem with the heavy focus on technology.  Throwing up a power point slide that has paragraphs on it does nothing for students.  Plus, all the bells and whistles in the world doesn't make up for a poorly planned lesson.  Some of the best teachers that I have ever had never turned on a computer or a projector.  They never used ipads in the classroom (of course, we didn't have them back then).  They never used fancy software programs.  All they did was stand in front of the classroom and tell us stories about the past and we learned.  Quite a bit.  Their passion for the subject came through and was contagious.  Though I try very hard myself, I can't help but feel sometimes that I don't quite live up to their standards.

Personally, I think that you have to know your subject, have a passion for it, and be able to tell a story in order to succeed as a history teacher.  Technology makes a good teacher a better one.  It will not turn a bad teacher into a good one.  I have students that have loved my classes.  I have others who have hated it.  I do believe that, based on feedback that I have received from the students and the colleges where I have taught, I have more than the former category than the latter.  But I could be wrong.

So I think that every history lecture should be a story with a beginning, middle, and end.  How you want to go about that is entirely up to you.  Use technology if you like.  But if you don't, that isn't a big deal.  Your enthusiasm for what you are doing is far more important than any piece of hardware, which may not work when you need it anyway!  (That is an entirely different subject for another time!)

So I'll ask you this, Dear Readers, what did your best history teachers do that made them the best?

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian who tries not be be a Half A$$ Teacher.

The Half A$$ Historian in an open air classroom.
My favorite type!

1 comment: