Why “thinking like a teacher” isn’t a bad thing.

Many of you know I’m currently in graduate school. I was over the moon when I got the acceptance letter that the school where I transferred to then completed my undergraduate education to become a TEACHER. I was accepted into their Public History graduate program, after being encouraged for years by a staff member that whenever I was ready, I would definitely succeed.

I felt ready. I felt like I was at a steady place in my career. I felt like I was mature enough to begin this next step. I felt like I had a passion for this area. I had just been honored to earn two scholarships as Miss Capital City through the Miss America Organization at both the Miss Capital City Scholarship Pageant, as well as receiving the Kate Peacock Teaching Fellow Scholarship at the Miss North Carolina Pageant. I had money to start funding the education I wanted to continue to pursue….and that scholarship had the word teaching in it, mind you.

I was so excited to begin my pursuit of my Masters in January. But, to my great disappointment, it hasn’t been what I expected. There have been a lot of issues. One of the biggest being that many times it has seemed that the right-hand does not know what the left is doing at this university. As someone who likes organization, that bothers me. But, I digress from the subject of this post.

The other issue that has stuck out to me is that more than one professor has told me to stop thinking like a teacher and to think like a historian.

I think I can be both. I think I am both. I fully believe that I am an academic, an explorer, a writer, and an educator, simultaneously. And you will not convince me otherwise. *Insert me singing “Defying Gravity” here*

I have been frustrated many times in my education by the things that my professors have told me. But this one has disillusioned me. It has made me question continuing my education.

If you have ever met me, you know that I believe wholeheartedly in who my Creator sculpted me to be. I believe in constructive criticism, sure. But I also don’t believe in changing the core of myself just because someone does not think or feel that way themselves.

So. At the risk of my professor or classmate thinking I’m cocky, let me tell you why you should let me be a teacher and a historian. It can be summed up in one sentence, I’m learning from them too and I can share that knowledge with the historian community, and it will help us grow, but below is also a breakdown,  

  • I can reach a wide audience. I know how to reshape a question, if necessary, to speak to more people and actively engage them in a conversation (my pageant experience is super helpful in this aspect, as well)
  • I know how to scaffold material. It’s part of my training. Again, wider reach. People are increasingly disengaging with history, folks. Why would you push them away because you are doing something they consider too hard?
  • If you can’t teach it to a seven-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself. I am a FIRM believer in this. And I may not be teaching elementary kids, but I know how to break down ideas, and no offense to any of you historians, but some of you do not. Let me help you with that. 
  • I can tell you what is SUPER BORING for them to read, some of your syllabus material, again, no offense, but IT SUCKS. Like, dude, I’m a reader, and I don’t even want to read it. They are not going to read that at any given point. Or show up to your lecture on it. Sorry, not sorry. Let me help you find RELEVANT material on that same subject. Again, I can help.
  • Learn to be the bigger person. Sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes so do you, sometimes so do they. If you treat them badly, correct it, apologize, move forward. Don’t be snooty. It isn’t cute. They can also smell fake from a mile away. I promise.
  • They are the future of America. Help them make it a good future.
  • If you aren’t willing to open up to them, they will not open up to you.
  • I know your future audience, college professor, museum runners, any public historian, or public figure. They are sitting in my classroom or they are friends of the kids in my classroom. Let me tell you about them and their interests and how to engage them. I learn from them every day just like they learn from me.
  • On this same note, do NOT assume because you have a higher degree that you are smarter than them on everything. You aren’t. Sorry.
  • Be willing to mix things up. Lecturing for your entire class every class is boring. Do something different. They all learn differently.
  • I care. This is my human nature. I have a story. So do you. So does everybody. Fill a bucket. Let somebody talk. Tell them you care. Love well. This matters. It’s what I do.

I believe, as much as it saddens me, without changing to value opinions of others, history will die. This is a higher level of disengagement and disinterest. I see it in the classroom. I see it at the college level. I see it at the graduate level- I see it in myself right now, that I want to disengage because of the rudeness of some college and some staff members.

If there isn’t care to make it accessible to all audiences, then it dies. You can disagree, but this is my opinion. And I hope that historians will open their hearts and minds to reach out to audiences they may not have intended to originally and engage wider audiences, but it does not start out by shutting down those who are trying to bring a different (and helpful) perspective. 

 

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Picture after winning Kate Peacock Teaching Fellow Scholarship at Miss North Carolina Scholarship Pageant, June 2017. I was excited to have my teaching excellence recognized, but also to be able to fund the beginning of my graduate education.

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