Started From a Reckless Teenage Decision, Now I’m Here.

December 12, 2018 |  Tagged , , | Comments Off on Started From a Reckless Teenage Decision, Now I’m Here.

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 History as subject has always been something that I enjoyed greatly, but this would not be cultivated as a serious passion of mine until I became an undergraduate student at SUNY Cortland. It has been argued for years now that the way history is taught to k-12 students is in need of restructuring. History teachers today continue to fight for reform in regards to their curriculum, proper funding, and for textbooks that accurately reflect the realities of controversial topics in history. During my time as a high school student, I thought nothing of these difficulties and absorbed the information as it was given to me. In retrospect, I feel like it was not only a difficult task to navigate topics like the Civil War both in accordance to the curriculum and ethically, but a herculean task to get any of us to care. To this day I am unsure whether my flippant attitude in history classes was because my teachers were so exhausted by the system that it showed, or if it was just a serious case of rebellious teenage attitude problem. Either way, It wouldn’t be until I became a history student at SUNY Cortland that I saw how my dual degree History and Education friends would grapple with these issues that I really understood the difficulties behind teaching history in public schools.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 As a freshman in college, like most, I was completely lost and had zero idea what direction I wanted to take my life in. I had to pick a job that was stable and could pay off my loans, but with a mix of teen angst, existential despair, and some homesickness for seasoning, I had fallen into ambivalence towards my education. Attend class, do homework, go out, go to bed. Wash, rinse, and repeat. It would be at a Halloween party that I ended up making a decision that would completely change both my academic and career path for the better. A boy who lived in the dorm across the street from me would mention at this party that he was a history major, that he loved it, and that I should “Just do whatever you want. You’re paying for this degree anyway.” This moved me. He was right. I WAS paying for this degree anyway. My fickle heart had been persuaded. The following Monday I walked into the history department, got a slip signed by Lou Ann the secretary, and handed it to the dean. I didn’t know it at the time, but this action done truly without any thought whatsoever would shake up the way in which I viewed history academia forever. Thanks Andrew!

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 There are not words that can convey the praise I wish to give to the history department at SUNY Cortland. Well-rounded, well read, and diverse in personality with one mission to truly providing a quality education, this history department would be absolutely instrumental to my career in academia and how I would understand the methodology of teaching history. The one thing that I felt was most influential to this internal paradigm shift of mine is the way my professors applied context and primary source documents to a historical person of event, and then allowed us as students to reach our own thoughtful and informed conclusions. This felt so foreign, as the material I learned as a k-12 student in a public school did not provide me the same amount of leniency in how I digested the material that was taught to me. For so long I had taken part in the rote memorization of tertiary textbook information that it was difficult to adjust. This new concept was a wonderful thing, but in turn I would see my friends who were taking the dual degree Education and History path struggle to find a medium between teaching the materials required in way that allowed their students to gain full marks the Regents or AP exams and giving them the freedom to absorb the material in a way that was meaningful to them.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 With these thoughts in mind, I got in touch with my closest undergrad friends, a group affectionately referred to as “Dr. Professor Gathagan Squad” as homage to a professor we adored and whose classes we took together religiously. These three hooligans from college are now all history teachers across the east coast in public high schools. As I reflected on my time as a history student both k-12 and in higher education, I wanted to hear how our undergraduate degree affected the way that they teach in their classrooms. All three of them agreed that our undergraduate education impacted the way that they taught greatly, but the flexibility to teach in a manner that allowed for the level of freedom and openness that exists in higher education just is not there in their mandated public school curriculum. Almost every hour of teaching had to be directly in line with administrative directives. However, they do their best to make sure their students are taught ethically, and provided with as accurate of information as possible, textbook be damned.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 I cannot speak for every history teacher, heck, for ANY history teacher, but I am sure that much like my friends, most understand that importance of the task they are given and to the best of their abilities give the next generation of students as good of a foundation as they can to think critically about history, and create informed opinions about the significance of our past. If young professionals are working so hard to genuinely engage the youth now, imagine if they had the ability to teach topics and core educational values beyond what for-profit exam companies require.


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