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Where do we stand?

Where do we stand?

Over the last week I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the inaugural cohort of Bright scholars at the Bright Institute at Knox College. Under the leadership of Serena Zabin (who has deftly challenged us to think creatively about all manner of issues related to the American Revolution) we’ve talked about new books in the field of Vast Early America, things we’d like to see the field do better, and ideas for where the field could go next. In…

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A word about what we do

A word about what we do

Early in the term in all of my mid-level and upper-level history classes, I ask students what historians do. We make a list on a whiteboard, and the students get the big ideas up there: go to conferences, do research, write, and teach. I have them break those down. What goes into going to a conference? There are proposals and presentations to write, slides to create, funding to secure, travel to undertake. Similarly, we talk about everything that goes into…

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Serena and Mercy

Serena and Mercy

Recently, a friend told me that the umpires at Wimbledon call Serena Williams “Mrs. Williams,” despite the fact that she has not taken her husband’s name or otherwise asked that her marriage be professionally recognized. The hiccup is that Wimbledon only recognizes “Miss.” and “Mrs.” (not Ms.) as acceptable prefixes to a woman’s name. (It does not use any honorific for men, but notes the husbands, wedding dates, and wedding locations of women in the glossary of the Wimbledon Compendium.)…

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For Those of Us Who Do Not Love the Archives

For Those of Us Who Do Not Love the Archives

I’m in the middle of an extended research trip to Philadelphia, where I’m working as a short-term fellow in the library of the American Philosophical Society. The APS is a wonder – the staff have been unfailingly generous and kind; the library itself is beautiful; the sources are abundant. And yet I’m struggling. We don’t often talk about the realities of archival work. I could line up article after article talking about the difficulties of teaching, one of the three…

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The Index Card

The Index Card

Last Thursday, the students in my Museums, Monuments, and Memory course unveiled their exhibit to the public. The theme of the exhibit was 1968 (with a U.S. focus) and included panels on civil rights, the United Farmworkers, gay and trans rights, American Indian rights, feminism, college protests, the Democratic convention in Chicago, the presidential election, the Cold War at large and Vietnam in particular, culture, music, and the environment. The students had built the exhibit from the ground up, crafting…

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Dis/ability

Dis/ability

On April 19, Philip Gaines posted a letter from a concerned student to the column ‘Social Qs’ at the NYTimes: I am a student at a small liberal arts college. My friend takes a required psychology class with me. But she has acute autism, so when we take exams, she goes into another room, by herself, to take them. She recently told me that when she takes these tests, she uses her notes to do better. This hardly seems fair to…

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Experience

Experience

It’s ten years this year since I first launched Museums, Monuments, and Memory, a course in which fifteen upper-level students collaboratively design, construct, populate, and staff an exhibition on a topic I reveal to them on the first day of class. It’s one of my favorite classes to teach, experiential to its core, and collaborative in a way that few history classes get to be. The anniversary of that first exhibition has me reflective, as does recently seeing someone on…

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What I’ve Learned about Learning Goals

What I’ve Learned about Learning Goals

I read a wonderful interview with Natalie Mendoza this morning, in which she offered a wonderful articulation of alignment – making sure that your course goals, assessments, and instruction are all synced with one another: “Let me explain what alignment is. Alignment includes three steps. The first step would be identifying learning objectives. What is it that you want students to learn? We talked about skills, we talked about concepts, or content – any of those things could be learning…

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Fun With Scissors Day

Fun With Scissors Day

Today was “Fun with Scissors!” day in my methods class, otherwise known as our end-of-term paper workshop. I’m sure I am not the first or only person who believes in cutting up papers to emphasize organization, strong thesis statements, and good topic sentences, but in case you’ve never heard of the tactic, here’s how it goes: Everyone brings in a complete first version of their paper to class, printed single sided. They scribble out the in-text footnote numbers, and then…

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Teaching Our Grad Students How to Teach

Teaching Our Grad Students How to Teach

The other day, Jesse Stommel tweeted a thread about how we train our graduate students to teach. It got me thinking about my own experience, and how much work graduate programs need to put in to make sure we do better. I was 22 years old when I first began teaching. I was an English, first-generation, immigrant graduate student, brand new to the American system of education, and just six weeks past my own graduation with a BA in American…

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