Sunday, July 3, 2011

An Unexpected Lesson from Grad School...

If you follow me on Twitter or are a friend of mine on Facebook, you may remember that I spent a LONG week in class this week learning how to be an incredible teacher of American history.  This class is actually part of a 3 year program funded by a federal grant because our government has a vested interest in ensuring that our citizens are educated.  Overall, I'm very impressed by the program thus far, despite my frustration at the end of course exam I was subjected to on Friday afternoon!  (I won't rehash that...I'm just now getting over it...kinda!)  This afternoon, however, I had an unexpected moment of clarity where a very unintended lesson from this week was hammered home to me.  Thought I'd share it with you...

One of the skills we are learning in this program is how to locate and use primary sources documents to teach American history, as opposed to simply putting textbooks in front of our students and allowing their own thinking to be shaped by the biases and interpretations of the historians who wrote the text.  Giving students access to primary sources enables and empowers them to critically analyze the sources for themselves and develop their own well informed ideas regarding historical context.  Complicated?  HIGHLY!  Valuable?  Not even open for debate!  It is an enormously valuable activity in which to engage our students if we want them to be able to think critically.

This afternoon, I was preparing what I need in order to teach a class next week to teachers who will be learning how to participate and prepare for Simulated Congressional Hearings with their upper elementary students...a true passion of mine!  As part of the preparation for this class (which, btw, is at James Madison's home in COOL is that?!?!) I spent time gathering primary sources that these teachers might possibly use for their own mock hearing next week, but more importantly, with their own students next school year.  Here's what I noticed this afternoon...I only needed 15 minutes to gather the links I needed online for 10 primary sources that these teachers will access next week as part of what I do with them.  That was stunning!  Because last week...when I was first introduced to locating and authenticating primary sources took me 6 HOURS.  Literally.  Today...15 minutes.

How could that possibly be?

Well, here's the unintended lesson from last week...SHEER TORTURE is often WORTH IT!!!

I love my job...I love teaching history more than just about anything else I teach...and I HATED sitting in that class all week last week!  It was so difficult to focus on what was being taught.  I didn't want to engage in learning.  I was completely exhausted and burned out from finishing my own school year just a mere two days before I had to be a student myself!  All I wanted to do was enjoy the beautiful, sunny weather and relax...but I was committed to this program and had no choice but to sit inside that windowless lecture hall for 6 hours a day all week long.  To me, it wasn't fun.  It truly did feel like torture, or as close as I ever want to come to it anyway!  But despite my frustrated feelings and desire to disengage, I learned last week.  A lot, apparently.  It allowed me to do what I needed to do today in a remarkably and impressively brief amount of time.

The life lesson???  Do the important stuff.  Torture or not.  In the end, it really is worth it.  It WILL make you better every day!

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