Artifacts from my first 18 years of teaching

About a month ago I started to excavate my life as a teacher. What prompted this was two fold: first, a move – from one cubicle space to another and second, the cleaning out of the history workroom at my school. About 7 years ago my school moved to a shared classroom model and I became a department chair. I “lost” my classroom and moved many boxes of precious resources to 3 file cabinet drawers in the history work room. In those intervening years we’ve gone 1:1 and almost all of my resources are digital and in the cloud.

This cleaning turned into a treasure hunt of sorts and a deep dive into my years as a teacher. This year I took on the role of Dean of Faculty. I’ve had this beginner’s mindset all year – every day I am learning, acknowledging how little I know. I haven’t made all those small and epic failures like I have as a teacher that give one a great foundation to be an administrator.

Here are a few artifacts I found that highlight the resources I used as a teacher.

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I came across a stash of Newsweek magazines. These were gold back in the day. First, they ran these magazines that perfectly tied in with curriculum. They also had the ideal balance of text and pictures. There were personal stories woven throughout. I could ditch the textbook for a couple of days and may even be able to hook in a few of the students who had stopped reading because this seemed more engaging. Now, there’s the whole www/ internet and there’s more and more resources and movies and films. Somehow, though, this for me represented the ideal balance of format. And it makes me nostalgic for a time when resources had less variance and something this simple could get kids excited.

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Books. Who knew? Teaching history from a book. Those of you not teaching 1:1 and/or where your kids aren’t in school now may not realize it but books just aren’t the driving force. I had these books because they were my source. I couldn’t google it. I didn’t yet have a vast personal library. I wasn’t curating resources for my students. The Russian history book is the one I used in college. That’s right, I learned stuff in college and transmitted it to my students. Now I think it’s my job to teach my students how to learn, not transmit my knowledge or the knowledge in a book.

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This last one is an artifact of my teaching World War II. It took me a whole quarter. Students did the research projects during that month. Sometimes we watched movies. I learned that students could do research at home on snow days and I didn’t lose so much curriculum time.  I taught and for a week or so my students learned all the major battles of both the Pacific and European Theaters. Why? I am not sure. I found it fascinating. It allowed me to differentiate for my students by assigning different battles. And this book was the piece de resistance! Maps! Photos! Facts! When I stumbled across it I hugged it like a teddy bear. I’d make copies of each battle and students had their own resources. They could focus on the writing. Now, there’s so much out there on the internet, it seems silly to have a book. I still love it , though ,I wonder why I taught all those battles?

Next week, find out how a map of Africa and neon file folders taught me to be student centered.