Review of ‘Remembering Lincoln’ Project by Ford’s Theatre

Below is the assignment I was given for my graduate Digital History course, and my response to the assignment, as we have been asked to write it as though it were a blog post.

BLOG ASSIGNMENT: Write an evaluation (500-750 words) of one the following sites (each of you will sign up for one), using the Journal of American History evaluation guidelines. and, where relevant, drawing on the week’s reading. Note especially the questions in the key areas of content, form, audience/use, and new media. If you have a project site that you’d like to review but is not listed here, please let me know at least 5 days in advance of the assignment due date.

The project site that I chose to evaluate is “Remembering Lincoln.” I picked this site because I have always had a fascination with Abraham Lincoln. As a little back story, since this is written as a blog post, I actually was told in elementary school (a very small private school) that by third grade I had written too many reports on Abraham Lincoln and needed to write my next one on a female, especially because we would be dressing up as the subject of our next biography report. I was not a happy seven year old, and strongly protested this enough that they assigned me my biography subject, and called my parents. Eighteen years later, I still drag my family to Lincoln themed historic sites regularly, watch documentaries, read books, and clearly took John David Smith’s undergraduate course on Lincoln. I also regularly rant about Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln when given the chance, and sometimes even when I have to present myself with the opportunity just because I feel like talking about the Lincolns. So, long story short, ya girl is stoked to look at this site. Okay, that’s my unrelated, hopefully ungraded 🙂 rant, here we go.

 

The ‘Remembering Lincoln’ site is an Archive of responses to the Lincoln Assassination that is presented by Ford’s Theatre through various methods. The main tabs of the website are “Explore the Story,” “Browse Responses,” and “For Teachers.” Each of these tabs offers various other tabs within them once the visitor has gone into that tab. The purpose of the site is to trace the narrative of the reactions that citizens had to the shocking assassination of the President.

The Timeline features moves through photos and quick captions that range from one sentence to one paragraph. The timeline features the assassination, the chase and apprehension of John Wilkes Booth, the funeral trains, trial, and the executions of the conspirators in July.

The Map feature lets you click on different cities to see responses to the assassination. Diaries, memories, public statements, newspapers, letters, sermons, photographs, and speeches are all featured. There is also a browse feature for responses that has 39 pages of pieces submitted.

The Funeral Train tab goes to Google Arts and Culture that allows the user to click through photos and a virtual tour of the current sites that stand where Lincoln’s body was viewed by citizens on the funeral train stops.

The lesson plans tab has resources for grades 6-12 on various parts of the assassination.

Based on the Digital History Review Site, after generally browsing the site, I went back and looked for the categories that the DHR noted for reviews.

Content: The scholarship is sound in the fact that it features primary sources from around the country. This gives varying viewpoints, and the point of the site is to give reactions to the assassination at the time of the assassination. The project is current because it does have a section for teachers that features lesson plans that have been recently updated to align with national standards that are ever changing for both social studies and language arts educators. The flaw I saw in this category is the display of content communication to users. Three mains tabs are featured at the top of the site, but unless the visitors clicks in and explores, it is difficult to realize what all the site features (browse items, funeral train, explore the manhunt, meet the people, lesson plans, etc).

Design: As previously addressed, the design initially makes the site look much simpler than it is. However, if an user makes a simple click into one of the tabs it does feature what the site does have to offer, so it is not difficult to navigate. The only feature that did not function as expected was the “use History Pin” button for the interactive map of where photos and documents were submitted from, but the map was also featured on the project site, so I was unclear why an user needed to go onto a separate site to view the items to begin with. The site loads quickly, even with my affinity to have 50 tabs open at any given time, which I did while I was working on this assignment (yes, I know, my first period class yells at me daily, but it’s the way my mind works).

Audience: The project is presented by Ford’s Theatre, so theoretically it is someone who is interested in Lincoln’s assassination, assassinations in general, or is in an American History course. I was impressed of how well it addressed the goals of high school and middle school curriculum goals in addressing primary sources, then using analyzing, creation, comparison, writing skills, and comparison with those primary source items. If they intend for this to be used by educators, then they have done an excellent job and I would definitely use it in my classroom.

Digital Media: The project uses interactive mapping and Google Arts/Culture to interactively involve users in Lincoln’s assassination and the aftermath.

Creators: The site uses multiple contributors. Including teachers, digital strategists. They have a curator, website manager, interns, art directors, and digital public historians. They also have multiple advisors from various backgrounds including Dr. David Goldfield from UNCC, Jennifer Rosenfield from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, and the director of National History Day that we host at UNCC, Kim Fortney.

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”

“In the Mourning” of yet another high school shooting

Let me begin this post with a few disclaimers. First, I am a high school teacher, but I am not sitting with my students right now, I am home sick, and I will touch later on the fact of how this has broken me this week. Secondly, I am a registered Republican, but according to a few of my friends, I am an extremely “liberal Republican.” Thirdly, this post will not be eloquent by any means, because I am writing with pure emotion, and my heart is broken today. But if you’re sticking with me so far, let’s go.

Today children who are the age of the students I teach are being prepared by a funeral home to be buried. Today teachers, just like me, are being prepared for their funeral and burial. If the news was right, some of the funerals begin today. Not only are these people just like the people I see daily being buried, their families just like my family are mourning them, their work family who are just like my work family is mourning them, these students who are just like my students are mourning them and wondering how they will ever move on with their lives.

I did something I rarely do today, I sat down my cup of coffee, and if you know me my morning cup of coffee is important….I sat down my cup of coffee, so I could cry. I watched two young ladies stand on camera and BEG for their to be change in this country. One said she could not shower, use the bathroom, or sleep alone because she is so distraught in the aftermath of seeing her fellow classmates and teachers gunned down.

Then, mere moments later, the same news outlet silently scrolled the pictures of the victims. There was another thing I wasn’t used to….silence. My coffee cup remained on a coaster, and I wailed into my grandfather’s rocking chair at the lives lost and the hearts broken as a result. The silence, that I so often claim I want, was deafening. It physically hurt me to cry, yet I could not stop. My heart was broken for each of these lives lost, and the people they left behind.

So somebody somewhere is asking in their head: If you’re such a great teacher and you care so much, why are you not at school today?

Great question, somebody somewhere, let me explain. If you are new to this blog or don’t pay attention, I have a chronic pain disorder and an autoimmune disease. On Wednesday, I had more medical testing done to try to diagnose some irksome symptoms I have been having for over two months. I had taken yesterday off to recover, and unfortunately my body is not recovering at the pace I would like it to, so here I am stuck at home for another day. (yes, I’ve cried about that too). It has been hard being away from my kids for three days. It breaks me to know that I just want to hug all of them in the aftermath of this news, and I won’t be able to until next week. So, doing what I could I left them a message on Google Classroom, where they should be doing their work, so I can see it from home. The message read like this:

In light of everything that has happened nationally this week, I just want to remind you, you are each cared about. I am so thankful to teach each and every one of you. All of you have things in you that make you special, and you all have a bright future ahead of you. Strive to achieve those dreams. Be safe over your long weekend. Can’t wait to see you all on Tuesday!

My kids know that every Friday I give what we call the “Friday lecture.” I urge them to make smart choices, and we go through the places I don’t want to visit them: the hospital, jail, or the funeral home. It breaks my heart that today there are students and teachers visiting two of those three places as a result of this tragedy. I have buried one student in my teaching career, and it made me unbelievably sad, so I cannot imagine burying 14, nor do I want to think about it. Burying one still hurts my heart. This week actually marked the one year anniversary and I cried about that, mere hours before the news broke that 14 students had been gunned down when they were trying to head home for the day.

THIS SHOULD NOT BE THE NEW NORMAL FOR OUR CHILDREN. Our children should not have to practice drills to know what to do if someone is trying to murder them while they are at school where they should be safe. Now, does my school do it? yes. Do I hate it? Also yes. I joke with my kids if I look out in the hallway and it’s clear we’re making a run for it. Yet, I also know in my inmost being I would do everything in my power to shelter them in place and fight an armed assailant off and if it meant risking my life I would give my life for theirs.

As I typed that statement, my selfish 20something inside me was like “oh no girl.” I am 24. I am not married. I have no biological children. I am in grad school. I have student loan debt to pay off. I have some awesome best friends. and I have four fur babies that I love to death. And I have a man in my life, whom I would love to marry. But would I stand in front of my children and block them from death, even if it meant that my own life would be cut short? Yes. I tell them from the get go that I prayed over who would end up in my classroom and that I don’t have biological children, so they now have become my children. Once mine, always mine. At the age of 24, I have over 400 children who have come through my classroom and they are all MY CHILDREN. I wish that the adults of this country would realize the responsibility we have to protect these children. My 400 are also your children, they are the future, and they are awesome, and they don’t deserve to be gunned down in their prime.

Oh god, Logan, didn’t you say that you’re a registered Republican? Yes. I registered as a Republican when I turned 18. I am extremely fiscally conservative, yet I am extremely socially liberal. But even registered as a Republican, I realize that something is wrong. There is something wrong when my children have to fear being at school. There is something wrong when someone who has been flagged by the FBI then LEGALLY owns an assault weapon and guns down 17 people and almost makes an escape.

We need gun control. We also need mental health reform. We also need to teach our children AND ADULTS to love and be kind.

The young man who has been arraigned and who is sitting in jail with no bond, because he slayed 17 people, is a young person. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE. He is the age that I would have taught my first year after graduating college.

I have worked in a day homeless shelter. I have a parent who works in the government’s social service field. I have seen those who are flagged “mentally ill.” Mentally ill is not a label that means that you wake up one day and decide to gun down 17 innocent people. In fact, one of my favorite people in the world is “mentally ill” and that person is known to hug me and sing me a song when they see me…    Yes we need mental health reform and perhaps that should be part of the conversation but that does not need to be the whole conversation. We cannot leave gun violence and gun control out of this conversation. If you want to say that the assailant (I refuse to speak his name and make him famous) did this because he was mentally ill then why are you not acknowledging the fact that our government’s gun laws allowed him to legally buy the weapon even though he is quote “mentally ill” and there’s an issue there.

This conversation needs to be had by both sides of the aisle without a government shutdown. Yes, we need mental health reform. yes, we need stricter gun control laws. Yes, we need to teach love more often. Yes, my kids did grow up in a generation where they were given a participation trophy, but that doesn’t mean that they grow up to be violent. Yes, we need to take time to mourn. But finally yes, this is the time for the conversation to be had.

As a reporter said this morning, we mourn the 17 lives lost, but we also need to acknowledge the survivors, they are the ones who are going to make the change.

I believe in this generation. I believe they are going to be the change we want to see in the world. I believe they are just as tired of mourning those we lose, and nothing be done about it.