Historical History

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History teachers PREPARE students for the FUTURE by teaching about the PAST

30 December 2010

Deployment to Kyrgyzstan

As 2010 comes to close, most people tend to think about the last 365 days and wonder what, if anything, happened this year that significantly impacted their life, either for good or for bad. For me, this year has been a year of 'firsts.' Throughout this last year, there were many things that I did, which I had never experienced before. This was a year that I won't forget anytime soon.

I guess the best way to describe the events of the year would be to go all the way back to the beginning; back to January 2010. Happy New Year! 2009 is over and now there is a whole new year full of optimism and opportunity. As of January I still had not landed a full-time teaching job; however, I have good feeling that this will be my year and the future job that I know I'll love is waiting for me. In the meantime, I'm working for my Alma Mater as a custodian, sweeping, mopping, and cleaning the Student Union at nights. This job, while not ideal, worked out well for my family, because we have a newborn at home. My wife can work during the day, while I'm home with the baby and visa versa in the evening. While I'm working as a custodial engineer, I am vigorously searching for the illusive Social Studies position. I continue to work and determine that I'll stay here until God opens another door for me and my family, but I would have never guessed where that door would come from.

I found out earlier this year, around March, that I would be deploying to a country that I had never heard of, probably because nothing of any significance to world events had ever come from it. If you've heard of this country before learning of it's government rebellion earlier this year, then you must be more in tuned with world affairs than most Americans. Well, I found out I would be going overseas in August to spend six months at the Transit Center in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, which is were I am currently writing this blog. As one could imagine, this news was a bit of a shock to my wife, since that means I'll be missing our daughters first steps, first words, first birthday, and 'real' first Christmas. I say 'real' because she was only a month and a half old for her true first Christmas. This news meant I was done working as a custodian in May, because I would be gearing up with pre-deployment training in June.

For the next few months before I had to prepare to deploy, I spent every moment with my infant daughter, playing with her and teaching her has best as her tiny mind could understand. Those months before I left were, without a doubt, the best months of my life so far.

As I said previously, 2010 was a year filled with many firsts. Among the many firsts, was flying solo across the country from St. Louis, Missouri to Las Vegas, Nevada. I had never flown alone and I had never been to Las Vegas. I was sent there for a week training course of the Tactical Automated Security System I would be using while deployed. I had been selected by my unit that I would be one of the TASS operators while deployed. This was also the first time I had been away from my daughter for more than a few hours. I thought of the time away as a precursor to the six months I would be away in Kyrgyzstan.

The summer of 2010 was full of training and time away from my family. We spent some time down at Fort Leonardwood, Missouri training with the heavy weapons and qualifying with our M4's and M9's. From there, we went to Fort Dix, New Jersey to spend 17 long, hot days doing battle drills and enduring through mind-numbing PowerPoint classes. When we returned to St. Louis we still had a few weeks before we were scheduled to leave, so fortunately we given the time to spend with our families. It was during this time that my wife told me she was pregnant again with our second child. We didn't know it at the time, but it would grow to be our son! She went to the doctor to discover that her due date would be a mere week or so before I am scheduled to come back.

After arriving in Kyrgyzstan, we quickly got settled into what would be home for the next six months. It took me about five days to adjust to the jet lag. Kyrgyzstan is 12 hours ahead of the Central Standard Time zone back in the states, therefore it took a few days before I was sleeping the entire night. We quickly learned the base and our jobs and easily slipped into a routine. Our schedule rotated on a 3 and 1 work cycle. We worked three days for 12 hour shifts, then we had the day off. This work rotation made the weeks and the months fly by so quickly that before I knew it it had been a month, Halloween, Grace's birthday, Thanksgiving, my birthday, Christmas, and now it's already New Year's eve!

While I've been overseas, I have missed quite a bit in regards to my daughter's growth and development; however, it has been bearable because of the technologies in the world today. Namely Skype and Apple's iPod Facetime feature. These technologies in particular have allowed me to see Grace as she grows bigger and bigger everyday. I've also gotten to see my wife as she progresses in her pregnancy.

As I reflect on 2010, I realize that, while I may not have noticed it at the time, I have done a lot of maturing, physically, mentally, and spiritually. While overseas, I have had the opportunity to get my mind, body, and soul in shape. I have had the time to exercise, read multiple books, and spend time with my creator. Therefore, while at first the news that I would be deploying seemed unfortunate, I can now see that in the eyes of God it has been a blessing. I hope and pray that as we begin yet another year, that God would continue to bless me and my family.

He knows our needs and he provides as He sees fit and I know that 2011 will be another year filled with blessings in disguise. While I don't know what the Lord has planned for me and my family, I have faith to know that He knows the plans He has for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future. I pray that God will bless you as 2010 comes to a close and that you will continue to trust and lean on Him throughout 2011.

14 August 2009

It's Been Too Long

I was going through my list of favorites on my Internet tab and I saw "Blogger." I thought to myself, "??? I still have this?" So, I click on the tab and the page loads showing me that I have not posted anything since April! Which brings me to my current state, sitting at the computer in our office/babies room typing a post that will update my status to anyone who may or may not read this blog.

It is the middle of August, schools are beginning to start and I wish I could say i was preparing for my first year of teaching. Unfortunately, social studies teachers are not among those "in high demand" in the world of education. In fact I even had a principal during one of my interviews tell me "we" (social studies teachers) are a dime a dozen. I live in Liberty, Mo. and I have applied and interviewed at almost every school district with in 30 miles. Now is not a good time for recently graduated teachers. At first I thought, maybe it was something I was doing wrong; poor interviews, not calling back enough, little to no connections, but then I spoke with individuals I had graduated with, only to hear the same story coming from them. Knowing that i was not the only one made feel better. Currently, I am still employed as a substitute for both Liberty and Park Hill School District, which is good because it will keep in the districts and keep my classroom management skills sharp.

In other news, my beautiful wife is pregnant in her third trimester with our first child. We found out last month that we will be parents to baby girl! People often ask me if i was disappointed with that fact, but honestly, I am just glad to have a healthy baby. So far the doctors have said that she is progressing well and appears to be healthy. We have decided on naming her after my wife's middle name, which is Grace. Last Monday we had an appointment with the OB/GYN and he said he thought Grace might be "breached," but that at this stage it should not worry us. Most people may think we're crazy, but in addition to the arrival of Grace we have recently gotten another puppy. Bringing our grand total to three, yes three dogs. Our newest dog is the same as the other two, Shiz Tzu/Maltese, and his name is Jake.

07 April 2009

Xtranormal Assignment

Wow! I cannot believe it has been more than a month since my last posting. For those who are avid followers of this blog, assuming there are any, I apologize for not posting sooner. Today I'd like to post about a website I have mentioned before, called xtrnoraml. I have embedded the link into the title of this post, however, the link is www.xtranormal.com. I am posting about it again because I have recently used this website in my Women's Studies class at Park Hill High School.

In my Women's Studies class we are working our way throught the roles and significance of women during the Early modern period of history. Looking at specific women, like Marie Antoinette, Cathrine the Great, Abigail Adams, and others, the girls have been studying the opprotunities and loack of opprotunities afford to women during this era in history. Their assignment was to use this website to role play a scene with main focus being on issues these women faced on a day to day basis.

The assignment took the entire block (90 minutes) to complete. Each had to create a free account and username and password. Once they had created an account they were free to explore the site and creat their own short movie. All they had to do was create a dialogue with a partner and type their script into the appropriate boxes. The movie my class made were very creative and entertaining, both for me and the class. The class had a great time using their creativity to make and direct their own short film. I have included a few examples of some the films they made. Please enjoy.

01 March 2009

Sacco and Vanzetti

As I was preparing for this weeks discussions in my AP United States history class, I came across this mini documentary of the famous Sacco and Vanzetti case. I think this video does a good job with describing the case and more importantly, the reactions during and after the case. I plan to use this video this week to generate discussion about prejudice and the effects it can have government and individuals, hopefully demonstrating that this case was not simply a case of two immigrant anarchist's who may or may not have robbed and murdered, but about the hysteria of eliminating potential threats to the "American" way of life.
Sacco and Vanzetti - Watch more funny videos here

11 February 2009

Parent-Teacher Confrences

Tonight we have parent-teacher conferences at Park Hill High School. This will be my first experience with parents without the assistance of a more experienced teacher than myself. Previously, the only experience I have had was during my time at Liberty, where I conducted conferences with parents alongside Doug Winkler, my cooperating teacher. I do not foresee any complications with parents, because I am teaching four sections of Advanced Placement United States History. Therefore, these students are generally those who have a genuine desire to learn the history of America.

Park Hill conducts their conferences a bit differently than Liberty. At Liberty, the teachers go to their assigned table and hope a parent or two shows up. In contrast, parents at Park Hill have prearranged when they plan on meeting with the teacher. This is good, because I have an idea of how busy my evening is going to be. As I am sitting in the gymnasium at a table designated as mine, by the folded manila card stock with my name on it, I can see parents coming and going, sitting and standing, nodding in agreement with whatever the teacher is saying. And it makes me stop and think about the life of a teacher.

As a teacher, thus far in my career, I get up early, teach to 50 - 60 students a day, spend multiple hours after school preparing for the next day, go home, kiss the wife, and fall asleep around 8:00 or 9:00. Then, the alarm goes off at 5:45am and I begin the cycle all over. So, as I am watching all that is going on around me, I am wondering, "What sort of an impact am I really making?" "What do these parent teacher conferences really accomplish?" I would like to think that meeting the parents will motivate them to meet with their student at home to improve their performance in the classroom. Or do these conferences merely allow the parents face time with their student's teachers so the parent can feel comforted by the fact that their students is not being taught by an incompetent individual, ignorant to the content of the classroom?

For me, meeting the parents allow give me a better understanding of my students. There are some parents, who, once you have met them, all questions or concerns about their student are immediately answered. Other parents leave me with more questions about their student than when I first began. I think that this experience will be one more thing to prepare me for my full time teacher position, wherever that may be. I hope that, in the future, I am able to take the lessons I have learned here and at Liberty and apply them to influence the students in the most positive and efficient way. If you are a teacher and have similar experiences or advice for a green teacher, like myself, please feel free to share your comments or stories by commenting to this blog.

28 January 2009

Women's Studies Project

The other day I was teaching my Women's Studies class and it was one of those days, where I can literally see the eyes rolling into the back of their heads. Obviously, something was not going right. I was not enjoying the class and it was abundantly clear the students were not having a good time either. In the middle of my rambling I stopped and said, "Okay, this obviously isn't working. What do you want from this class? You chose this class, so what do you hope to get out the class?" The students, taken back a bit, looked at each other, . . .then me, . . .then at each other again. Finally, after a moment of awkward silence a student in the back quietly said, "Maybe we could do a project or something."

Thus, an idea was born! We were painfully trying to get through the role of women in a variety of cultures from the ancient world. I went home that night and put some thought to how I could get the students to learn the information in a way that they enjoyed and learned something from at the same time.

I decided that I would let the students do the work by researching the cultures and, as a group, present their findings to the class. I broke the students into four groups and gave each group an ancient civilization: Roman, Spartan, Jewish, or Greek. As a group, they researched the culture, any historical events, and two to three significant women from that society. Their task was to put all their research in a coherent PowerPoint presentation, where they could be as creative they wished. I allotted three days to research, using laptops, and create their presentation.

I would love to know if you have any suggestion for how I could do a project similar to this in the future, or if you have done something similar. Please share your ideas and constructive criticism. Today they are on their second day of research, and already a problem I am running into is keeping a class full of girls on task. I am hearing more stories of gossip and less of ancient civilizations. Every few minutes I am reminding them to stay on task.

I really enjoy the class, but I am having trouble keeping them engaged in the material. In addition, since there is no set curriculum, I am having to develop a curriculum as I go along. The teacher, who I have replaced left a vague outline where the class should go, which has been a lot of help thus far, but I am getting the feeling that as the semester progresses I will have to come up with other material. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated.

22 January 2009

Parkhill School District

Last week I was offered a long term substitute position at Park Hill School District, to fill in for a teacher who teaches four sections of AP US History and one section of Women's Studies. Nervously, I accepted the job and have been at Park Hill since Tuesday of this week. It was a transition I had never experienced before; leaving the comfort zone of one district and moving to another.

My first day at the new school I was thrown into classes without much preparation. It was as if I were thrown into a pool and were trying to put my feet on the bottom, without knowing how far the bottom of the pool was beneath me. It took about two days, but I think I'm starting to find the bottom of the pool. The AP classes are blocked every other day, which is great, because it allows my a day in between to prepare. On the other hand, the Women's Studies class is blocked everyday. I think if I had a week or so to plan for this class I could make it an entertaining and intriguing class. The teacher, who I've stepped in for, did a fantastic job at preparing the material I will need for the next few months. I have started to develop my own system for preparing for each class. Because this is my first classroom, I am not yet at point where I feel confident enough to walk in moderately prepared and deliver a fantastic lecture about any given point in US history; therefore, I have been reading, taking notes, and creating PowerPoints everyday this week. Today was the first day I gave a lecture to the AP class and I think it went well. The students seemed engaged and entertained. I think if I can stay a chapter ahead of them, I'll be fine for the rest of the semester. However, I can potentially see myself becoming exhausted in a few weeks if I stay as busy I was this week. Only time will tell, but I am starting to feel more comfortable in my new environment.

I know that this experience will be a learning experience no matter if it is a good or bad experience, and I believe if I stay positive and work hard, good things will come. I know that sounds incredibly optimistic, but I have a feeling this is just one more stepping stone in my journey through education. If you have a similar experience, I would love to hear about, please feel free to post a comment at the bottom. Thank you and have a great fantastic day!