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Posts from the ‘books’ Category

“A tradition like no other.” 10 books to read this summer

To quote Jim Nantz and his love for the Master’s golf tournament, “it’s a tradition unlike any other.”

And just like the Master’s, the March Madness basketball tournament, the NCSS national conference, and the annual May collapse of the Kansas City Royals baseball team, my self-assigned summer reading program is something that’s been part of my yearly schedule for almost as long as I can remember.

An early mentor from my Derby Middle School teaching days, Mike Ortmann, was fairly adamant about the whole thing. “This is not a part-time job,” he said.

Don’t get lazy over the summer, he said. Read some books. Expand your mind. Hone your craft. Be sure to stay current, he said.

So . . . who was I to argue? The guy was a social studies rock star. And ever since, I’ve created a list of books that I plan to read during the summer months. It’s a great idea. Read some stuff. Take some notes. Get smarter. (Of course, it’s common knowledge that I’ve never actually finished one of these lists. And it’s not going to happen this year either, just saying. A used book store five minutes from my house? Yeah. That’s gonna be trouble.)

This year’s list is a mix of work-related and just fun-to-read books. In no particular order:

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Teaching with your mouth shut and other things that happen in an inquiry-based classroom

I still remember how great that day was. I had rocked it in all five sections of my 8th US history class. I spent 55 awesome minutes each period highlighting the causes of the American Revolution. And. I. Killed. It. The kids clearly couldn’t get enough. They were so busy copying down all of the notes I had provided for them that they didn’t have time to ask any questions.

The French and Indian War. Proclamation of 1763. Stamp Act. Some other Act. Maybe two, not positive cause I was on a roll. Something, I think, about the Boston Tea Party. Pretty sure there was something about Crispus Attucks and that guy who kept yelling about liberty or death. Seriously. This lecture was on fire. And I left the building that day convinced that my kids walked out smarter than when they walked in.

Except . . .

they probably weren’t smarter. They were maybe better copy downers. Better taker noters. And for sure a whole lot better at not interrupting the teacher when he was talking.

But smarter? Nope. Clearly my perspective of how the day went wasn’t accurate. I wasn’t on fire. Kids weren’t engaged. And it’s very unlikely that they actually learned anything long term.

How do I know? The research says so.

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Is it possible to love the Library of Congress too much? No. No, it is not.

Is it possible to fall more deeply in love with a library?

I mean . . . I’m already in love with the Library of Congress. That’s a given. But I had the chance to attend a remote meeting yesterday with a few of LOC’s amazing staff and I’m pretty sure that I’m more in love with the LOC now than I was before.

And it’s all because of three things. Three things that I kind of knew the Library had but forgot they had or they were moved and I wasn’t sure how to find them.

So . . . if you’re looking for more reasons to love the Library, you need to spend some time exploring these three awesome digital resources.

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2021 Summer Reading List: Books that’ll make me a better person

Maybe it’s the heat. Or maybe it’s too much AC.

Either way, it’s been hard to get started on the annual History Tech Summer Reading List. It’s been a tradition for as long as I’ve been in education. Back in the day, Mike Ortmann, a social studies rock star who taught down the hall from me in Derby Middle School, encouraged me to do something besides be a life guard during the summer.

“Read some books.” Mike said. “Talk to some people. Do some research. Get off your butt and become a better teacher,” he said.

So I did. And Mike was right. We need to keep learning, keep asking questions, keep moving forward. And what better time for that than between now and September? So every summer, I make a list of books I plan to read June, July, and August. Long time History Tech readers already know this.

They also know that not once, not ever, a couple of times I came close but never ever, have I actually finished the list.

I’m getting less and less optimistic that it will ever happen. It’s always something. I get distracted. This summer, we’ve got the Olympics and Euro 2020. And my wife and I are in the middle of a move. Don’t hold your breath.

But I am loving my 2021 list. So maybe, just maybe, this is the summer.

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Go beyond February. 5 ways for becoming a culturally competent communicator

Carter Woodson grew up in Virginia, moving to West Virginia at the age of 17 to attend high school. He worked as a coal miner while he studied part-time, eventually becoming a full-time student and graduating in 1897. He became a teacher and school administrator, later earning two college degrees from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from Harvard.

As a historian, Woodson established the Association for the Study of African American Life and History while advocating for the intentional and accurate teaching of African American and Black history, achievements, and accomplishments. And in 1926, he and other historians pioneered “Negro History Week” to encourage the telling of these stories beyond the lens of a Eurocentric perspective:

“For centuries we have been the victims of propaganda; and as long as the truth is denied a hearing there will always be strife among the members of the human family, and disorder like the present in which the world now finds itself will always be possible.”

This truth, Woodson claimed, was

“overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.”

Fifty years later, following the example of Black students at Kent State University, President Ford would establish Black History Month.

The hope was that Black History Month would provide a very intentional time for all of us to learn together the  contributions, challenges, and successes of African Americans; incorporating our present, the past 400 years in North America, and the the thousands of years before that in Africa. But . . . the real hope was that the stories of people, events, and places, routinely ignored, would be incorporated throughout the school year.

As educator, author, and activist Jose Vilson put it:

“. . . has it ever occurred to you that, as well-intentioned as (Black History Month) might be, we ought to take the next step and celebrate Black history on March 1st as well?”

I’m guessing we’re all in agreement on the going beyond February business. The question now becomes how to do what Woodson dreamed of and Vilson advocates.

Do I have all the answers? Not even close. But there are a lot of very smart people out there who do. What have I learned and continue to learn? Read more

Thank you, George Takei, for reminding us. The Bill of Rights should not be taken lightly.

Yesterday at the final keynote of the 2020 NCSS national conference, author and actor George Takei shared his experience growing up in what he called an American concentration camp. As a five year old, he and his parents were forced into several different camps during World War II simply because their racial ethnicity.

As he shared his experiences and connected them to contemporary issues such as #BLM and Muslim bans, I flashed back to an earlier History Tech post highlighting the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, FDR’s executive order legalizing the internment of thousands of American citizens like five year old George.

Takei’s session was a good reminder about the power of the Bill of Rights and what can happen when we ignore its principles. As you continue to plan your instruction the rest of the year, don’t shy away from telling the story of America even when it makes you uncomfortable. One way to do that? Lean into using primary sources like Takei’s personal story that document the topic.

Takei shared a bit about his recent graphic memoir titled They Called Us Enemies. It’s a perfect (and powerful) way to begin a conversation around Executive Order 9066. Use the available teaching resources and discussion guides to hook your kids and get them asking the right sorts of questions.

Another way? Use photographs, like the ones taken by Dorothea Lange. Read more