No classes this week, as students and faculty enjoyed a brief respite known as spring break. However, that does not mean that life was just sitting around and watching soap operas (oops—daytime dramas, and that distraction stopped when One Life to Live ended in January). On Monday, I had the pleasure of observing a student teacher while she administered a test…and on Friday, I met with all of the student teachers and provided them with their mid-term evaluations (although one of them sort of forgot we were supposed to meet). In between, I did my part to stimulate the economy and began primary source research for a conference paper I hope to present in November.
One thing about being an historian (and a history professor) is that I use my research when teaching my classes (particularly when I teach Historical Methods, which I will be doing in Fall 2012). I think I’m an exception in that I actually enjoy teaching that course, in which students learn how to write research papers (or, rather, I teach students how to write history research papers, which are different than those for any other academic discipline). In the past, I have assigned some of my own publications as assignments, and this fall I anticipate sharing with them the process as I write the paper (plus, I will be researching and writing a journal article that must be submitted in January 2013). This spring break, I began the archival research for a paper, visiting two historical societies: the Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society at the Lancaster Theological Seminary and the Henry Janssen Library at the Historical Society of Berks County. At the former, I delved into records of the Reformed synods, first examining the Eastern Pennsylvania Synod in the early 1880s and, not finding anything, the German Reformed Synod of the East. I struck gold with the latter records—or, more precisely, Gold gestoßen—as I found a good starting point for my research. The catch was that the records of the German Reformed Synod of the East are in German, and my language skills are a bit rusty. Fortunately, I remembered enough to find information (and it helped that they didn’t translate the city of Reading into Lesen). The only real challenge as I was transcribing the records was that they were printed in Gothic script, which can be a bit difficult to read until you figure out the difference between the f, k, s, and t. And, on the bright side, it wasn’t the handwritten German schriften (which I will get to decipher/translate/transcribe when I work with the original church records). At the Henry Janssen Library, I found the dismissal list from First Reformed Church (listing members who had transferred to other congregations), along with a biography of a minister who helped establish the congregation I am researching.
Other than getting my hands dirty working with 19th century synod records (next time, I’ll bring gloves) and scrolling through microfilm, it was a rather uneventful spring break. No papers to grade (although a student did give me a rough draft to correct); after the grading frenzy of the last couple of weeks, it was a nice break. Back to work this week, as we discuss the Great Depression and New Deal in the U.S. history survey, Civil War in Pennsylvania in History of Pennsylvania, and watch 1776 in the American Revolution class (only a few students have seen it, and I think that it should be required viewing for the course—and the only way I can make sure they watch is if I show it in class). Of course, this means that the next exam will have a question related to the movie, since we’re spending a week watching it.
And, in case anyone is wondering…yes, I’m counting the days until April 2. Only a few people know the real reason why…although comments are certainly welcomed if anyone wants to guess.
This week’s photo is from the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, last visited during the Bark Peeler’s Convention in July 2010: