Making Memories in New York

Making Memories in New York

[This post was originally on Storify; I’m archiving a slightly updated version here now that Storify is going away.] Every two years I teach an upper-level seminar called Museums, Monuments, and Memory. In that course we explore basic theoretical approaches to public history, as well as building an entire exhibit from the ground up in the lobby of our Center for Fine Arts. I choose the topic, but the students take over from that point on and figure out the…

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Making the Grade

Making the Grade

I saw a tweet sometime last year that suggested if one found grading an onerous task, the solution was to design assignments that were fun to grade.* I admit to thinking the idea was preposterous.  Grading, for all twenty-two years of my teaching life, had been an uphill battle against the forces of procrastination, resentment, and frustration.  This had nothing to do with the quality of the work that my students produced – their papers were regularly fantastic.  But I…

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My Teaching Philosophy and Stephen Colbert

My Teaching Philosophy and Stephen Colbert

Those of you who’ve read this blog before will recall that in August I rewrote my teaching philosophy. Instead of addressing it to faculty or administrators, I addressed it to my students, and it was a liberating experience. Suddenly, concepts that I’d had trouble articulating in the past came easily, and my words communicated a sense of purpose that I’d always felt but had rarely been able to express. I expected that teaching philosophy to last for a while. After…

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SOCC it! Primary Source Analysis with my Students

SOCC it! Primary Source Analysis with my Students

If you’re a historian, chances are analyzing a primary source is a reflexive skill – one you’ve deployed countless times in your graduate and professional career.  This is a blessing when it comes to research, but for many of us it’s a stumbling block when it comes to teaching students how to do the same.  Our best attempts to articulate our process often end up overwhelming students with detail.  How does one sum up the myriad of questions we might…

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What Do Our Syllabi Really Say?

What Do Our Syllabi Really Say?

A lot changed for me last week.  Let me give you a concrete example: The syllabus I distributed to students in spring term, 2017, said the following about plagiarism: The Knox College community expects its members to demonstrate a high degree of ethical integrity in all their actions, including their academic work. Examples of academic dishonesty include plagiarism, giving or receiving unauthorized help, voluntarily assisting another student in cheating, and dishonestly obtaining an extension. If you have any questions about…

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Breaking the Ice

Breaking the Ice

Icebreakers are standard practice in many college classrooms, especially on the first day of a new semester. In class after class students tell others a variety of pieces of information about themselves: their name, major, year, or something else – something unique, we often hope. Sometimes we deploy an icebreaker because we want to pair faces with names. Sometimes we genuinely want to disrupt the awkward silence of a first class. At our best moments, we’re looking to start the…

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My Autobiograpy as a Historian

My Autobiograpy as a Historian

Twelve I’m twelve years old, on the top deck of a double-decker bus, riding into the city with my younger brother and mum.  As we get close to our destination, I see a squat brick building that we’ve passed many times before without me paying it much attention.  Today, however, there’s a line of people spilling out its front door and far down the street.  I ask my mum what’s going on. “It’s a soup kitchen for the miners,” she…

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On Safe Spaces

On Safe Spaces

Another day, another op-ed piece about students who live in “safe spaces” being utterly unprepared for The Real World.  This time the opinion comes from Bret Stephens, a columnist for the New York Times, who published the May 14, 2017 commencement speech he gave to the students at Hampden-Sydney College.  “Safe spaces, physical and intellectual, are for children,” writes Stephens. “You are grown-ups now. If your diplomas mean anything, it’s that it is time you leave those spaces behind forever.” …

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Dear Seniors

Dear Seniors

Dear Seniors – In the run-up to my undergraduate graduation ceremony, I despaired. I felt so many things, almost all of them contradictory, and it seemed impossible to imagine that my body could contain them all. I was so glad to be done – I had had it with papers and seminars and the reach of professors into my life. I was proud – I had earned a BA with Honors and that was no small accomplishment, especially as a…

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Living in the Real World

Living in the Real World

A distressing column in The Chronicle of Higher Ed has been making the rounds this week – Gail A. Hornstein’s piece on why she doesn’t honor disability accommodations in her classroom. Many people more articulate than I have taken issue with the column – my favorite is Robin M. Eame’s response – but I want to point to a trope at the heart of Hornstein’s column that is often used to denigrate students and minimize their experiences. Hornstein’s focus is…

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