Spring Break Can’t Come Soon Enough…

As I am writing this blog post, Spring Break has officially arrived at Mansfield University. All of the grading is finally completed (yay!), and 1/3 of my academic department is in Italy on the History Travel Club’s annual tour. The index for the 4th edition of Ordinary Courage has been sent to the publisher (updating the entries because of repagination with the new printing in addition to adding entries for new chapter on “The Revolutionary War Soldier on Film” that has been added to this edition). All that’s left is compiling the mailing list for the Winter 2012 issue of Pennsylvania History, preparing the program review response/evaluation for the Bloomsburg University History Department, and beginning research on a conference paper I hope to present at the Pennsylvania Historical Association annual meeting in November.

Okay, now I know readers are wondering…Spring Break—isn’t that the time to get away to Florida? First, I’ve never been to Florida (although I did once go to Georgia during spring break). When I was an undergraduate, spring break was a time to go home and visit with friends and family. When I was in graduate school, spring break was a time to do research without having to worry about going to class or grading papers (most of the time I was a teaching assistant). And, when I was at the University of Houston, spring break was the first week AstroWorld (aka Six Flags Houton) opened for the new season, and I was working.  This year won’t be any different, as my “spring break” trip will be to the Reading/Lancaster area to do research at the Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society and the Historical Society of Berks County (although there will be eating involved, too; after all, I am a Pennsylvania German).

But enough about next week’s adventures…this week was enough. From the “joy” of handing back exams (with the accompanying scolding that students need to follow directions, answer all parts of the question, and include historically accurate information in order to succeed) to the challenges of technical glitches, the week before spring break is always fun—and not just because some students began their spring break activities on Wednesday. This week also included visits to three of the student teachers (one of whom had a technical glitch during class, and another one did an outstanding job of handling a student revolt because she was requiring them to write in Spanish in the Spanish class), one committee meeting in which I behaved myself and didn’t smack the administrator sitting next to me, and two classes in which the videos of those lectures could be considered as candidates for America’s Funniest Home Videos if they had been filmed in a home instead of a classroom.

Security has changed at colleges and universities across the country since the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007. In Mansfield’s case, we have lockdown drills during the semester in which the buildings are locked to prevent intruders from entering the buildings (of course, this also leaves the innocent outside to be sitting ducks if a sniper starts taking aim, but apparently that’s not considered to be a threat). This year, the scenario was that an armed robber was on campus…which, of course, they included in the notification that the campus was under lockdown and it was a drill. The notification method varies; we get emails; some of us get text messages (I’m still waiting for the one announcing the drill, but I did get the one notifying me that the drill had ended); and a message is posted on all university computers (which means, of course, that the message displays on the screen in the classroom, taking over the PowerPoint presentation). I must admit, there is nothing like talking about why the colonists are declaring their independence from England and being interrupted by a student saying, “I know this is off topic, but I just got a text message that there is an armed robber on campus and that this is a drill.”

Then there was Friday, the comedy of errors day (and yes, it’s on film—and I’m not editing the film when I share it with the students who had legitimate excused absences for Friday’s class). After observing the one student teacher who had included a clip from The Patriot when teaching about Loyalists versus Patriots, I decided to do that when teaching about Loyalism this Friday. I also found a clip from Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor that I would use to show how the patriots treated loyalists (for the former, it’s the scene at the South Carolina Assembly when they are debating whether or not to support a levy for the war; in the latter, it’s the scene where Joseph Reed pledges to hang 500 Loyalists as punishment for the 500 days the British occupied Philadelphia—in reality, the occupation was slightly more than nine months, but that’s just one of many historical inaccuracies in that film). Well, because I had two videos, Benedict Arnold was in the DVD player, and The Patriot would be played through the computer…at least that was the plan, until the PC decided to lock up when I tried to play the scene. So I had to reboot the computer, wait for it to come back to life, and, aware of the time, decided not to show that clip (and, of course, all of this is captured on film, because I didn’t want to stop and restart the camera—so the students who weren’t there really will feel like they’re in the classroom). I guess the moral of the story is that I shouldn’t try to get too fancy with my teaching, or I will be reminded why I’m an historian and not a film editor.

And, of course, when I read student exam responses like the ones below, I also realize that either my exam questions are too difficult, or perhaps my students have difficulty following what I am saying:

From History of Pennsylvania:

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg was a German pastor who was controversial because he sometimes spoke at French churches.

Lenni Lenape: a language spoken by Indian tribes in the north eastern US, mostly in Delaware river area.

Charity Schools—a place where young children who were poor could go to receive education

Charity Schools—they were built for the purpose for the less fortunate people who had no money. This allowed children of families who were poor to still have an education they did not cost them anything. These schools were funded through rich people or other organizations.

Lenni Lenape: He was born in a family with a Lutheran pastor in Sweden. When the Swede established New Sweden colony in Delaware area, he was appointed to act as the governor of New Sweden in North American from 1643 to 1653. He advocated developing trade with other settlers from Britain and Dutch, and he created a friendly relationship with native Indians and acquired the trust from Indians. He brought a short time of prosperity in New Sweden colony.

William Penn was a man who the state of Pennsylvania could not have lived without.

From History of the American Revolution:

The problem with the Stamp Act was that during this time period in order to stay in touch with some distant you have to send a letter since there was no such thing as a telephone or email.

King George grew suggestive about Greenville and dismissed him.

Mercy Otis Warren was kind of thrusted into rebelling because of the man that she became married to: James Otis.

George Greenville replaced Lord Brute as the head of Privy Council.

William Pitt was so competent that the king felt threatened by him and replaced him with Lord Brute.

Warren never sought to pick up the sword against the British Empire because she the Empire as the parent of the colonies.

William Pitt was the Head of Government and a member of the House of Commons in the American colonies. George III promoted him to the House of Lords just so that Pitt could not come into contact with the people of the colonies.

This coming week is Spring Break, so the next blog will include a reflection of the first half of the semester, as on Friday I meet with the student teachers to review their first placements and complete one of the evaluations/assessments I will use when preparing the accreditation report this summer.

And now, the photo of the week (taken in Lancaster County last November):

Sign on barn, Bird-in-Hand, PA

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About Karen

History Professor. Baseball fan. Author of two books, one of which I force my students to buy and read. You want me on your Trivial Pursuit team.
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