Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Weimar at the high school level

My friend Derek, who is the English and Social Studies teacher at Chris's school, has asked me to do a guest lecture about Germany's Weimar Republic for his Grade 12 History class on Friday morning. Being me, I volunteered to come back on Monday morning and talk with the class about 1929-1933 (he was planning on do that on his own, but 1929-1933 is my comfort zone and I can't stop talking about it anyway).

It's an interesting challenge for me. I've done an awful lot of "Introduction to Weimar" guest lectures in 100- and 200-level survey courses, but I need to make sure I don't just treat this like it's a university course. Yes, this is roughly the same age group as I get in many 100-level courses (especially on this young campus of mine). And, since it's a non-required course and a private school, they're paying to be there just as much as my university students are. But here, I'm not resting in the knowledge that a high school teacher has at least given them a cursory introduction and they've at least seen the pictures of Germans carrying around banknotes in wheelbarrows. I'm that cursory introduction.

One of the biggest challenge is the fact that I'm dealing with provincial-government-set Prescribed Learning Outcomes, and the knowledge that these kids are going to have to write a standardized government final exam on this material. Because this is new to me, there's this part of me that's scared I'm going to miss something important because I'm focusing too much on stuff that's interesting or important to me.

Of course, that fear is irrational, because Derek has told me what I need to make sure I cover. But it's unfamiliar territory for me. However, I know that it'll be fun. I know the whole group already, and on the second day we're all going to recite together the most important words that I want them to remember: "Hitler was never democratically elected to power." I'm going to have it written up in big block letters on a PowerPoint slide (I'm using PP just for pictures and German names) and we're going to say it all together a couple of times.

We're also going to have a twenty minute question period at the end of both classes, and I'm going to encourage them to ask me everything they've wanted to know. Because if I can prevent a couple of kids from becoming future People Who Make Ignorant Claims About Hitler on the Internet, my work here is done.

As an added bonus, beyond that small block of teaching time, I'll be trapped for two solid business days in a comfortable and quiet work space, far from my phone and internet, with nothing but my dissertation for company. And there's nothing like talking about my work with a non-specialist audience for getting me thinking about my writing in new ways.


C said...

oh wow, you are going to have a lot of fun! and i totally agree that talking to new people who can ask any question of your work is so beneficial. I got the greatest insights into my thesis by talking with my parent's friends at christmas cocktail parties!

roger said...

Sounds like fun!

But, how do the ignorant argue that Adolph angle? "Hitler was democratically elected, so it's really the German people's fault."