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Posts tagged ‘books’

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

History books make the best gifts. Some resources to kickstart your shopping list

We all know that the best holiday gifts are books. And the best books are history books.

Perhaps you need some gift ideas for a friend or loved one. Perhaps you need to make a few oh so gentle reminders to those buying your gifts.

Ah, heck. Feel free to buy these for yourself. After the fall you’ve probably had, you deserve something nice. (And don’t forget to buy local!) No matter why you’re looking for a book, the lists below have got you covered.

Where should you start?

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Using tradebooks to make your life easier and your students smarter

Long time readers know how much I love maps. I don’t really know for sure when the infatuation started but Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton may have had something to do with it.

I ran across Katy recently for the first time in years as I was sorting through bookshelves containing some old books. For those of you too young to have read Katy and the Big Snow as a child, a quick recap.

Katy is “a brave and untiring tractor” who pushes a bulldozer in the summer and a snowplow in the winter, making it possible for the townspeople of Geoppolis to do their jobs. In this particular story, Katy drives around all over the town – north, south, east, and west – with her snow plow, opening up the town so that citizens could complete a variety of different public and private tasks such as delivery the mail, putting out a fire, and shopping at a grocery store.

It’s a great book for a lot of reasons but one big reason is there’s so much to look at, especially in the margins. I loved that book growing up.

The best part of the book, I’m sure we’ll all agree, Read more

Protests are as American as . . . well, America. And, sadly, so is racism. Resources for teaching about both

“. . . it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
Angela Davis

Let’s be clear.

I really have no idea what I’m talking about. As a middle aged white guy born and raised in Western Kansas, who taught 8th graders in a suburban school district and higher ed at a small liberal arts college, I’m probably the last person who might have some answers to the issues of racial injustice and systemic racism in the United States.

But I do know that I need to take responsibility for trying to figure it out. How to start? By acknowledging the privileges I enjoy because of who and what I am.

I’ve never enslaved others or transported kidnapped Africans to North America or passed Jim Crow legislation or attacked civil rights workers. But I can acknowledge that the world I live in was built by people who did, as part of a system specifically designed to benefit me and others like me. Uncomfortable as it is to admit, some of my actions in this world have directly or indirectly contributed to further divisions. And I need to continue learning how best to work alongside others to correct the flaws in that system.

As a history teacher, it’s easy for me to think of America in the abstract. But we need to recognize and admit that there has always been two Americas. The abstract one – the one we aspire to, a place of equality and freedom and idealism and democracy. You know, the America we teach our kids.

And then there’s that other America, the actual one we all live in. For many of us – especially those of us living and teaching in small, rural, mostly white communities – life can seem like the one we teach. So it’s easy to forget how big and diverse and ugly and difficult the real America is for many around the country – and if we’re honest, how difficult it is for some in the small, rural, mostly white communities as well. The disconnect between those two realities has always existed but events this spring have made that disconnect more obvious for many of us.

There is no amount of Read more