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.

An Open Letter to the School Where I Began My Career

On Friday, May 11, 2018, I accepted an offer from Stuart W. Cramer High School to continue my career as a social studies educator. This means June 2018 will end my time with the school that I grew to love over the last five years of my life. It is the most bittersweet decision of my life thus far.

I fell in love with you, Hunter Huss, from the first time I set foot in the school as a college student. I had been to the school as a high school cheerleader, but from the first time I entered the school as an adult, I knew this is where I wanted to begin my teaching career. I started my time here while completing observations in the social studies department, during my junior year of college. Let me be honest, when I was first assigned my clinical observations here, I was terrified. The reputation you carried to the high school I attended was not one to be cherished. From the moment I began my time here, you opened my eyes to the fact you were not and are not what the community, especially other high schoolers, believe that you are. I told my parents after my first day of completed observations that I could not wait to return here and that I wanted to begin my teaching career here once I graduated.

During the spring semester of my senior year, I repeatedly sent emails to the principal and assistant principals, basically begging just to have a tour. When I was granted a tour, I was also interviewed on the spot by the administration. I was not told if they would even have an opening for me, but I prayed fervently that they would. I interviewed with other schools. I turned down the opportunity to work in the school I did my student teaching in during my senior year. I took a spot on a summer long mission trip. On my first day of actual work with this mission group, I received a phone call not only from Hunter Huss offering me a position but also a very nice school right across the South Carolina border. I then received two more interview requests based on my initial county interview and resume. I prayed nonstop for about 24 hours and talked to some very trusted individuals in my life to ask their Godly advice. On a Friday in May of 2015, I accepted my position with Hunter Huss.

Within weeks I was busy buying supplies for my classroom and began cleaning room C112 out from its previous owner. I began the steps to become a new teacher in Gaston County Schools. I spent time praying over the students that would step through the doorway of my classroom. One bulletin board still has not changed since the design I gave it in early August of 2015, because I was just so happy with the way it turned out. I put the letters on my door to spell “Miss Freeman” and beamed with pride as C112 became my own. C112, you have been home for three years, and when I clean you out in a few weeks, I guarantee you will see tears shed. You have been my retreat when I needed a few moments to breathe in hectic days. You have been the place where relationships have grown with my students. You have hosted meetings. You have seen me push my students. You have seen me cry tears of frustration when things weren’t going as well as I planned or when life’s hardships hit me at the end of the day. You have seen me laugh with my kids. You have seen me get riled up about politics and conspiracies and when I was encouraging them. You have also seen me work a lot of overtime….sweet second home of mine, we have shared many hours together. Thanks, C112, for being the safe place for me to grow as an educator and to learn about myself and my “babies.”

I have been part of the Husky (although yall would spell it Huskie and that will forever kill me slightly) Family officially for almost three years. (May 29 will mark the official day). Some members of this staff will remain a part of my life. Some of you, as life goes, will fade into my memory. But every one of you has made a mark on my life. We encourage our students to “make a mark” and you, Husky Family, surely have done so to each person who enters this building. There’s a saying “people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime” and this season has been pretty awesome for the most part. You have pushed me as an educator. You have given me resources and allowed me to share my own. Some of you, in all honesty, have tested my patience; some of you have deeply hurt my feelings. And some of you, wow, you have become family, absolutely, and forever. But each of you, I respect as my colleagues and as the people who are helping in raising the children that I think of as my own. Thank you for how you have helped me grow in the last 3-5 years.

I tell you, my sweet babies, that I don’t have biological children and so when you join my class you forever become one of mine, and there has never been anything truer. I have had over 400 children in my lifetime, and I reflect each year on the unique things you have brought into my life. My new students at this new school will not take your place, they will simply become my “babies” as well, but as a good “mom” I promise to still love you equally, just like if I was still here bringing in a new class of juniors. But before I go, I have a few words left for you all. You have tested me and have pushed me and have made me grow. And I hope you walk away from my classroom believing the same of me. I admire each of you. I love each and every one of you. Just like a mom can be tried by her children and still love them endlessly, some of you have been corrected by me more times than I can count, but that does not mean I don’t love as much as my straight-A-never-get-chastised-students. I have prayed for each of you even before you came into my classroom. I have prayed for you through the semester I have taught you. I know some of you believe the opposite, but everything I have done in this classroom has been to push you to be a better you. I have nothing but your best interests at heart. I want the best for each of you. I want you to be who you were created to be. I want you to be happy. I want you to realize each day that you woke up with a purpose and that you have what you need within you to reach the goals you have for yourself. I have been so privileged to watch you all grow in the time that I have had with you, and I cannot wait to see what stands ahead of you. Out of the talks I’ve given in my years, I want you all to remember a few things: stop watering dead plants, you did not wake up today to be mediocre, and you are so incredibly loved. Even though I’m heading a few minutes down the road, I will always be here for you when you need me. I will always love you as my own and support you to be the best you that you can be. I’ve most likely lost your interest by now, so I’ll stop.

To the Gaston County Community, I wish that I could show you the things that I love about Hunter Huss. My students are brilliant. When they set their mind to something, they are determined to achieve it. They are caring, they have big hearts ready to be loved and ready to give love. They are not the stories you tell about them or the reputation you have grown to believe is true. They are not a bunch of hoodlums who are held in by a barbed wire fence..that fence was to keep yall out and it’s been gone since I was in high school, update your knowledge of the city. They are children who are receiving an education in the oldest high school in Gaston County- which I would consider a privilege because I love my historic sites. They are not obnoxious, loud, disrespectful kids, they are young adults who are learning and growing, who yes may occasionally talk too much, but who are growing into the citizens who will one day give back to the community that they love- if you will allow them to do so. They are talented, in so many more ways than you could begin to imagine, and I hope you will allow them to show you the things they are passionate about.

I have loved this job. I have also been frustrated beyond compare. I think that may be the way life goes. You love what you do but sometimes you get frustrated. Sometimes you consider grabbing your bag and not coming back but the next morning you come back anyway to do what you were led to do to begin with. There have been times I have gone home with tears in my eyes. There have been days I have had to take off. There have been days when I said I was done, just to return the next day ready to give my best effort all over again. I have adored being able to say I work in the school from which both of my parents graduated. I have loved working in a building that has such significance for the Gaston County area. I have loved being able to brag about who my kids actually are as individuals and the narrative they are writing for themselves. I have loved being a part of this family. Huskies, I hope when I move my materials and work to another classroom to love a new set of kids, that you still allow me to be a part of this family. I will cherish you, I will cherish this experience, forever. I would love to still show up here and bother you all on work days. I would love to still support you guys. I would love to see baby pics, and wedding pics, and graduation pics (although my students better have graduation pics before anything else), and spend time with you over a cup of coffee, catching up on life. I would love to annoy you will conspiracies, rants, and my ever-ready “I’m livin the dream every day, how are you?”

Thank you for everything. I love you all more than words could say. 

“Freeman”