Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tales out of school

jo(e) asked about how the day at Chris's school went, and I thought that ought to be a stand-alone post.

Short answer: the day went really well, and it was exactly what I needed.

Long answer:

So, on Monday Chris took me with him to his school, where I was the "guest expert" in the Socials 11 and Film and Video 12 classes, which are back-to-back morning classes with roughly the same group of students.  In Social, I gave the kids a talk about primary sources, about the variety of sources and the various ways that historians use them.  At the last minute, the teacher asked if I could also talk with the kids about how Hitler came to power, and about how he managed to take as much power as he did, and I could easily do that (especially since I already had planned on addressing that in the Film and Video class).  In the second class, I went and gave the kids a talk about the context of Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, getting them to think about documentary and propaganda, and then watched and discussed the last ten minutes of the film. 

The kids were fantastic.  They were so excited that I was coming to talk with them, because Chris talks about me uncontrollably.  They were also excited because they've been really getting into World War II stuff in class, and have been grappling a lot with hard questions, and with figuring out what historians do, and were excited to talk with a Real! Live! Expert!  It was fun for me, because this was exactly the kind of low-pressure situation that I needed, so that I could get comfortable again in the classroom environment.  There's one student who recently discovered that she's really interested in history, and it was so rewarding watching her get into all of this stuff, and watching her face as she grasped the more difficult concepts. 

Oh man, that primary source was so fun.  It really was like "Introduction to Social and Cultural History," as I got them to realise that potential primary source material is all around us.  (A quilt or a dish could be a primary source!  This was a big deal for them!)  It was good for me, in terms of my research, because I brought along a bunch of my own primary sources, and had to explain to them exactly how I could use a fictional source as a historical source.  Sometimes it helps me when I have to talk it out like that.

And then I sat down in a little office near the principal's office, and spent the rest of the morning making major decisions about the course I'm teaching in June, and the afternoon making some real progress on my dissertation.  So, apparently it helped me to clear out my head and talk with some enthusiastic students for a couple of hours. 


In related news, I put together the finishing touches on my syllabus for my June course, and have finalised pretty much all of my plans, and I'm proud of myself.  And really excited about teaching this stuff now.  (Although I'm a little nervous about teaching about the war in the Pacific, because I really only know Europe and Canada.)


Teacher Lady said...

I think you should use the musical South Pacific in your teaching. I'm sure you would think of a way to show a clip or two. Even if it is about Hollywood's perception of what happened in the Pacific Rim during WWII. You love that kind of stuff.

jo(e) said...

That sounds like a great day!

The Blog Fodder said...

Did you tell them the REAL war was fought on the Eastern Front?

Anonymous said...

MA, teaching a course on the Pacific War is a perfect opportunity to rent all episodes of The Pacific and watch them back-to-back as "research." That's totally what I would do.