My Educational Philosophy

Informed by my study of Plato, I believe (to some degree) that all of education is recollecting self-knowledge, wisdom, and understanding that resides within every human being. I believe that all students are innately curious, innately have a voice, innately have prodigious talent, and innately have a desire to be their best selves. As a teacher it is my job to create a learning environment where students are truly at the center of their intellectual lives.

From a practical standpoint, what does this look like in their classroom?

For me this means that the very first minutes of every class don’t involve me speaking. I call this time, History Habit. History Habit provides an opportunity for students to share any of the following: a thought on a current event, a follow up piece of information from a previous class, a historic event that took place on that particular day (the beginning of women’s suffrage, Pearl Harbor, etc.). History Habit sets the stage and immediately shows students that this is their class, their forum, their place to bring in and share what they are intellectually interested in, even if only for a few minutes.

Reviewing textbook and content material is another way that I put students front and center. For the first few classes of the year I model how to review primary sources or chapter information, but within a couple of weeks students take over this process. They are randomly selected to review material for the class. They can choose to talk through various key points, or facilitate their classmates’ contributions, or a combination of the two. I listen intently and only speak at the end if there is something that was missed, or perhaps to point out a deeper connection that I’d like to address. Students are always very eager to participate in reviewing notes and they do a very thorough job as a result.

My last examples of student-centered learning focus on freewrites, Socratic discussions and debates. Prior to delving into a given historic topic I like to provide students the opportunity to generate their own narrative, their own documented thinking. I might put a prompt on the board that states something like, “I believe monarchial governments are….” Then students have the chance to do five minutes of uninterrupted freewriting. This straightforward activity allows a student to create meaning and ownership, before encountering other sources of information on that subject matter. Socratic discussions and debates provide students with further opportunities to guide their own intellectual thinking and reasoning. With both activities my goal is to provide source material, create the structure, then get out of the way. I take notes, pose the occasional probing question, reaffirm voices, but the vast majority of the time students are speaking to each other, sharing the space, and really enjoying the process of learning as a collective group.

As you may have guessed, I am not a “sage on stage.” My pedagogy is devoted to serving students, to modeling deep listening, to appreciating all of the voices in the room. I love to teach because I love to learn from the younger generations. Much of the core content and philosophical ideas of history are timeless, but each burgeoning mind intellectually interacts with the subject matter in a new and unique way. My educational philosophy allows me to continually grow and absorb, while gaining profound joy from watching a young person create the future, one class at a time.

Manifest Destiny Inspired Timeline

-1630 John Winthrop’s City Upon A Hill speech (Massachusetts) states that  “wee shall finde that the God of Israell is among us” echoing what Herman Melville would say years later about Manifest Destiny

-1689 English philosopher John Locke writes Of Property stating that God wants land to be put to use and made beautiful, and if land is idle or underused, then a person can cultivate it and thereby own it

-Washington, Hamilton, and Jefferson-all envision extending our country to the Pacific Ocean

-The Proclamation of 1763-Great Britain wants the U.S. to not cross the Appalachian Mountains, this proclamation feeds the spirit of American Revolution

-1803 Louisiana Purchase-almost doubles the land of the U.S.

-1830’s Native Americans are removed from the Eastern States to west of the Mississippi River

-1845 John O’Sullivan coins the phrase “Manifest Destiny”-meaning obvious fate with Providence: “under the protective care of God” the U.S. will settle the west

-1846 Wilmot Proviso is unsuccessful in forbidding slavery in land acquired by war with Mexico, this highlights the ongoing political tension over slavery

-1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the Mexican-American War increasing the size of the U.S. by a third, into all or parts of CA, NM, AZ, NV, WY, CO, TX

-1893 Frontier Thesis by Frederick Jackson Turner declares the frontier is closed

-U.S. continues to look for opportunities to expand with turn of the century imperialism in Hawaii, Philippines, Panama Canal, and Puerto Rico

-U.S. looks to spread Democracy/Capitalism in the 20th Century

-Space Colonization and the Final Frontier, ideas of Stephen Hawking and others

Typewriter’s Last Words

Please don’t leave me now
that you’ve seen the future.

My ink is real and you can touch
my paper with your hand holding

words, the ones pressed by my metal.
Permanent black rune, my tattooed

sentences offer so much more than
the screen, where mistakes disappear.

Delete, delete, delete-so easy to
forget all the missteps and time taken

to roll sheet after sheet. But each
letter, each tap, was your imprinted

mind. Go to the computer, but this
crumpled beauty, you will never find.

Girl Reads Civil War Poem

This poem is called Maggots,
Samantha stands in front of the

classroom with a sly smile. Her
piece inspired by historic conflict,

skips Gettysburg, Antietam, and
all the words of war. No rebel yell,

or regiments, she leaves nurse
descriptions and widow tears for

other poems to divulge. Starts
at the end, she speaks her black

beginning, maggots chewing,
spewing flesh of men without faces,

corpses all in their places for the feast.
She maintains throughout, that nature

intended such death, that it was all
meant to be. Not for North or South,

but for the legless larva to probe
darkness, with their bloody glee.

Thomas Edison Prays

I read somewhere
Thomas Edison had
a thinking bench
upstairs alone in
that room he
just sat and
thought and thought
and sat, sometimes
he would find
ideas and sometimes
they found him
because he was
waiting and not
really doing much
of anything, kind
of praying to
silence that something
would arrive and
if he sat
long enough and
was very quiet
something always did