Freedom During Quarantine

these evenings I stay up
late, just to see what has
accumulated during quarantine
days, overabundant family
time, the same dog walks
over and over, this darkened
hour is the only quiet space
without Zoom, or TikTok,
Netflix, or email invading
every minute, here I am
again, pretending to write
poems, freedom disguised
as ink words on a page

Presence and the Virus

and in the midst
of this uncertainty, as
time stands still in
houses, on streets where

dogs are walked five
times a day, and
women, men, wear masks
to stop the virus

within all this, i
sit next to my
son’s slumber and feel
only peace and calm

because this is our
moment, and all is
quiet, and the world
only exists right now

Timeless Universe

i’m not trying to write a good poem
this is just playful, holding a flashlight,
watching words appear on a page like
reading The Hobbit as a kid, and i can
do this, sometimes pausing to notice
shadows where dark becomes light,
a bright circle, where meaning emerges,
my handwriting, this timeless universe,
in quiet night

Media Journalist During COVID-19

i work for
the new york
times, or politico
or fox, or
cnn, or any
of the flat
screened word factories
that exist to
educate, speculate, divide
conquer the masses
fixated on their
iphones, ipads, laptops

so we guess
about escalating death
rates, about what
has already gone
wrong, and all
the things we
still don’t know
about ventilators and
arrogant millennials, and
west virginians who
are not impacted
by our hysteria

but we keep
typing and posting
because we must
capitalize on all
the eyeballs stuck
at home, sheltering
in our sentences
and photos, following
our every word
about economy on
the brink of
massive global recession

and when this
finally ends, how
many lives will
we take, who
will count the
minutes that were
spent reading and
reading, and scrolling
hours of time
we robbed from
the worried, who
should’ve known better

-Author’s note: I’m 100% in favor of citizens staying informed about the news regarding COVID-19, however, I do believe that we need to carefully monitor how much time we spend endlessly reading articles that serve to churn up further worry and speculation.

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.