Spring semester at Mansfield University began on Monday, January 23, 2012. This semester, I will be teaching three courses: United States History since 1877, History of Pennsylvania, and History of the American Revolution. The first two courses I’ve been teaching every spring for the past three years; I haven’t taught the American Revolution class since Spring 2007. This means that not only will I be dusting off old notes (well, not THAT old) for the first time in five years, but I’ll also be able to incorporate pictures from the historic sites and national parks that I have visited the past few summers. I will also be supervising four student teachers; three of them will be teaching social studies, and the fourth will be teaching Spanish. So I will be on the road a bit this semester as well.
One thing the student teachers are required to do is write a weekly journal in which they reflect on their experiences as novice teachers…in a sense, apprentices in the teaching profession. So, since I try not to require my students to do something that I myself haven’t done (or haven’t done recently), I’m going to blog weekly about what is going on in my classes. Sometimes it may be dull and boring (oh, joy, she’s lecturing to us); other times it might be entertaining (ooh…exam time!). And sometimes I might just post some of the photos that I will be showing in class, as I can use photos from these trips in my classes.
Another thing I am going to do is try filming my classes. Student teachers are required to video themselves and reflect on what they see when they teach. I recorded the students in the social studies methods class last semester and required them to reflect on what they observed when watching the video; I had to do the same when I completed a secondary teaching methods class as an undergraduate. One reason for filming is to see what I need to do to improve my teaching; another reason is that occasionally the university closes for weather reasons in the spring semester, and I want to be able to cover the same amount of information even if class is cancelled (last spring we missed five days, four of them MWF classes). So, by taping my classes, future students will not miss content, as they will be able to watch the lectures online. They won’t be professional (basically, I’m putting the flip camera on a tripod and propping it on a window sill in the classroom), but it will be better than nothing (and perhaps entertaining at times). Plus, students who missed class today (and tomorrow) will not have an excuse that they don’t know what happened when I reviewed the syllabus; they will be able to watch it online.
Today we reviewed my expectations as expressed in the course syllabus, which I will also be doing in History of Pennsylvania tomorrow afternoon. Wednesday, the U.S. history survey will watch a documentary on changes in the Native American experience during the late 19th century, while the American Revolution class will learn about how the French and Indian War served as a precursor to the Revolution. Thursday, the History of Pennsylvania class will watch The Courageous Mr. Penn, a 1942 British production that focuses on Penn’s life (and, after watching it, students should agree that Penn merits a better portrayal of his life than this World War II British propaganda film). Friday we will discuss industrial development in the U.S. history survey, and the American Revolution course will watch a film that will transition from the French and Indian War to the 1760s.
I hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I think I will. I’ve read several books on teaching, but they’ve only focused on one class—and, if you are teaching at a university like Mansfield, you definitely are teaching more than one class. You also have committee assignments and are expected to be an active scholar, and I will occasionally refer to this as well. And, perhaps, you might see a Super Bowl pick from a disgruntled Eagles fan…