Showing posts with label teaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teaching. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Places Projects is on Sewanee's website!

Our project, the Places Project, got featured on the Sewanee website.  It is always strange to read an effort to try to capture something that for you is fluid and so very much alive -- even a great piece like this.  The Places Project is in my bones right now.  I am not ready for it to be static, but I am ready for the word to get out there about it.

Places project feature

Anna Sumner Noonan C’17, Catherine Casselman, C’17, and Margo Shea pore over maps of the South Cumberland Plateau annotated with local residents’ stories about places that are significant to them. Photo by Buck Butler

Drawing the People’s Map

A Sewanee professor and her students collect stories about places on the South Cumberland Plateau to compile a rich topography of personal history.



You can read the full piece here:
http://www.sewanee.edu/features/story/places-project.html


Friday, March 31, 2017

To Eric Schneider, With Gratitude

Eric C. Schneider
I was nervous.  Standing backstage immediately before giving the student commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania's College of Arts and Sciences graduation, I was gulping air and peering out at the thousands of people in the audience.  Eric Schneider leaned in conspiratorially and said, "If it makes you feel better, in the scheme of things, you are just an infinistimal speck of dust.  We all are."

A few months later, Eric sent me a typed letter with a handwritten note.  The letter was one recommending me for an internship.  The note said, "Everyone should get at least one chance to read their eulogy while they are alive.  Here's yours."

Friday, January 20, 2017

Class Discussion Guidelines

I am sharing these class discussion guidelines because I think they are great.  My students arrived at them after a conversation about what makes group discussion helpful, productive and energizing.  They also asked me to make them  lovely and to share them on Blackboard so everyone has a copy.  I am hopeful that they will guide us as we learn together this semester.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

(White) Academia Needs Work

Tiffany Martinez didn't need to add the "white" to her statement that "academia needs work." She experiences the power and exclusion of whiteness all the time. For her, the academy is white.  I hope you've already read her piece, Academia, Love Me Back, but if you haven't, you need to.  Anyone working in the academy needs to.  White people need to.

I needed to.  I know, from my own experiences and my own mistakes, that the worst injury a professor inflicts on a student is the false assumption that work they have submitted is not their own.

That is what happened to Martinez.  She used the word, "hence" in an essay.  Her professor insisted that this was not her word.  They underlined "not" twice.  As in, "no freaking way do you know this word."  Not to mention this young woman is a serious scholar  and can probably out-write every kid in that class.

 The damage we can wreak as professors by making assumptions about students, about their writing, about their ideas is tremendous. As Martinez notes, it can set students back, as their own doubts and feelings of not belonging are codified and wrapped in the mantle of authority.  Of knowing.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Tours at the Highlander Folk School Historic Site

My students and I have been busy.  


Sewanee Students Offer Historical Tours of the Highlander Folk School 

If you have ever wanted to learn more about the Highlander Folk School in the Summerfield community of Grundy County, now is your chance to learn.

University of the South students enrolled in courses offered through the Collaborative for Southern Appalachian Studies will offer free historical tours of the Highlander Folk School site on Saturdays throughout April. Tours will be offered at 1 and 3 p.m. April 9, 16, 23, and 30, weather permitting. Tours last approximately one hour and leave from the Highlander Folk School Library on Old Highlander Lane in Monteagle, Tennessee. If you are interested in attending a tour, please plan to arrive 10 minutes before it is scheduled to begin.

Student tour guides will share the history of the site and the vision and ethos of its founders and staff. They will introduce the historic programs and work of the school and relay its contributions to U.S. labor, civil rights, and social justice movements. They will highlight key figures who participated in Highlander's programs, and will explain how and why controversies led to the forced closure of the folk school. The continued work and legacies of Highlander and efforts to preserve the site in Summerfield will be included in the tour.

Dr. Margo Shea, a visiting fellow with the Collaborative, has worked with Sewanee students in two courses, Introduction to Public History and Place-Based Research Methods, to conduct research and find creative ways to interpret the site in partnership with the Tennessee Preservation Trust. (Both courses are part of the university’s community-engaged learning program.) In 2013, the Tennessee Preservation Trust purchased the buildings and land associated with the school, which closed in 1961 and has since relocated to New Market, Tennessee.

For more information, please contact Margo Shea at 931.598.1879 or mmshea@sewanee.edu.



Monday, September 28, 2015

Academic Kindness is Awesome!

It is Monday and we all need some good news.  So, from the Department of Good News in the Academy, folks, this is a heads up for any of you who may have missed the great tumblr site, Academic Kindness, which the editor or editors call, " a record of unsolicited kindnesses, unexpected goodwill and excessive generosity in academia."



Each post is little more than a paragraph.  A story of kindnesses large and small, though, really, mostly small.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Museums and Historic Sites in the 21st Century : Observations from the Field

Ever wonder what a group of talented, ambitious, passionate and creative young museum professionals would discuss if they got together on a Tuesday evening?  So did I.  

Hence, this event, which took place April 21, 2015:



We had a terrific panel discussion with practitioners working in historic museums, historic sites and other corners of the field.  I was so impressed  by the thoughtfulness and generosity of our panelists -- Bethany Groff Dorau, North Shore Regional Site Manager for Historic New England, Doneeca Thurston, Adult Programs Coordinator at the Peabody Essex Museum, Kate Preissler,  Executive Director at Wisteriahurst Museum and Jonathan Parker, Chief of Education, Interpretation and Collaborative Partnerships at National Parks Service -- Salem Maritime and Saugus Ironworks National Historic Sites.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Not Everyone is Hiding from Scary Ideas in College

by Eleanor Taylor for the New York Times
This article by Judith Shulevitz has been popping up in my Facebook feed all week.  Every time I see the girl wrapped up in the fetal position inside a giant ear, I seethe a little bit more.  It seems that the Shulevitz piece has hit quite a nerve. Everyone is so ready to castigate the fragile flower millenials for their inability to get outside of their own heads and hearts.

The crux of the argument expressed in the piece seems to be that in an over-medicalized, over-protective culture, students today are perfectly content to sacrifice free speech and independent thought so that they do not ever risk the danger of being "discomfited" or, gasp, "distressed."

Writes Shulevitz, "It is disconcerting to see students clamor for a kind of intrusive supervision that would have outraged students a few generations ago.  But those were hardier souls.  Now students' needs are anticipated by a small army of service professionals --- mental health counselors, student-life deans and the like."

The boomers, they were so tough, so resilient, so revolutionary. Oh, that trope again. Nostalgia much?

As a faculty member at a state university, I am all too familiar with the army of service professionals of whom she speaks. Do they bureaucratize campus life?  Yes.   Do they endeavor to homogenize experience to the point of blunting it?  Maybe. They also find housing for the kid sleeping in his car, connect students living in situations where they are being abused to resources that help them get out, help with emergency loans and enable students to avoid dropping out of college with a load of debt and nothing to show for it when times get hard and students fall off the rails.  They are not only on campuses to protect their own jobs.   They actually, you know, do things.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Teaching Serial as Public History


serial
Photo credit: Kate Preissler
I took a risk this semester and dedicated a fairly large chunk of class time to teaching Serial in Intro to Public History.  It was placed in the syllabus as a bridge between a unit on memory, identity and different publics and a unit on settings and tools for public history practice.  I was inspired to do this by my own engagement with the podcast (errrr, obsessive binge listening) and by some great email conversations with Kate Preissler, Digital Projects Manager at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA, who wrote a fabulous blog post on Serial and public history for the NCPH blog.

In case you've been under a rock, Serial was a hugely popular podcast that ran for twelve episodes last autumn.  It examined the murder of high school student Hae Min Lee in 1999 in Baltimore and pulled apart the evidence used to successfully convict Lee's ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed -- who pleaded not guilty and maintains his innocence to this day, from his cell in a maximum security prison in Maryland.

I wanted to share my rudimentary class outlines and assignments for others who might be interested in exploring Serial with college students.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What is Public History? A Slam Poem Ode by an "Intro to PH" Undergraduate

Every time I teach Intro to Public History, we begin the semester with two sets of readings.  One set examines public history as it is situated within:
  • the history of the national parks
  • the discipline of history
  • the context of efforts to amplify invisible, untended or uncomfortable histories
  • the context of ordinary people's interests and engagements with the past
These go over very well.  

The other set?  Classics like Becker's "Everyman His Own Historian," David Lowenthal's meditation on the benefits and burdens of the past, Pierre Nora's famous (and famously dense) discussion of lieux de memoire, "sites" both literal and metaphorical that serve as bridges between history and memory and as anchors of identity in a rapidly changing and homogenizing world.

These go over terribly.  And I assign them anyway.  

This semester, I made my students do a reading response to these readings.  Some of them were fabulous. Some of them, shall we say, reflected the complexity of the texts.  And there was this.  A first. A slam poem reflection on history, memory and public history from the smart and thoughtful Dan McGuire.

Here you go:

Memory moves: its commonplace fog flows from the forefront to a fastidious fin within a fortnight or few. Moments pass, but alas, so do facts.  Herein lies the cause for historical intrigue: subjectivity abounds in interpersonal circles and shifts asunder blunders of remembrance, careless and oft-falsified grandeur in lieu of pithy wonder – the truth. Yet if the personal pains the platitudes of memory, the collective projects the final blow. Intellectuals carve while communities starve, competing for the final morsels of meaty memoranda. Ivory towers block the root notes (local history and communal scholarship) from keeping the beat for the books and brains to selfishly solo on top. Intellectual rot reeks of egoists bloviating into oblivion while ‘armchair’ agitators muck the moors of modern mental matriculation. Such claims decry graduate falsehoods: advanced degrees bring advanced understanding. Nonsense. The public deserves better. They deserve academics devoid of the pomp and pressures of publishing. They deserve driven, dutiful people focused on finding out what truly happened. They deserve public historians!
Treading water gets tiring right quick. Stick a historian in water and they’ll sink or get sick. Swimmers feel the burn and simply turn. Historians have muscular eyes instead of toned triceps to dive. But they tire. Reading renders the reader a simple purveyor of anything the writer wishes. If he chooses to devote an entire chapter to existential undertones in Olympic water-polo so be it, the reader must obey. He might become annoyed and think – “how could this writer have chosen such high-minded nonsense instead of getting to the real meat of the game?” The question therein signals the most important aspect of historical study: picking what to study, why, and which sources (primary and secondary) to utilize. Professional historians more often than not pick peer’s work to prove points. They stay immersed in their archives and libraries to the point of exhaustion. When one stumbles out of their House of Letters they might find, spray painted on the wall before them, a mural. It might depict a recent riot or a once-local figure now nudged into the national: whatever the case, books and essays can only show a part of the puzzle. The people those scribbles of lexigraphy represent truly matter, not decades-removed pretense a la post-Pulitzer pleasure. People are in the game for the game and not for the people.

************
OK.  Is it just me?  Or does it seem as if he was just waiting for the vocabulary to talk about history, memory and the public? About telling stories that matter? About the problems with academic history?  

Another public historian is born! (And this was published with his permission. Albeit blushingly.) 



Monday, February 2, 2015

Night Will Fall: A Meditation on Representation

At ceremonies and pilgrimages, through newspaper accounts and private reflection, people around the world observed the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz last week.  It has become a touchstone date, a moment for remembrance, a call to witness. 

Perhaps the ghosts of the Holocaust were with us as well.  In a locked room at Auschwitz in which an the Italian television crew and Jewish leaders found themselves trapped. Amidst silence and candlelight at vigils across the globe.  
And in André Singers' film "Night Will Fall," which aired around the world on January 27th.


Night Will Fall is a film about witnessing.  About survival amidst death. About the ways to tell a story, the impact of the visual, the politics of evidence.  About the power of solid historical research to deepen our understanding of both the past and the horizons and the limits of our humanity.  It is a difficult and necessary film.


There's been much ado about the documentary, and for good reason.  It introduces most viewers to historical newsreel footage of the Allied liberation of Nazi concentration camps that British filmmaker Sidney Bernstein used to create the film "German Concentration Camps Factual Survey."  Bernstein's film was never completed, the project ultimately axed because the US Army withdrew its footage due to fears of alienating Germans at a critical point in the early Cold War.  

Some of the US footage was used by Billy Wilder, an Austrian Jew and Hollywood director , members of whose immediate family were killed in the Holocaust.  Wilder produced "Death Mills" for the U.S. Department of War.  Its purpose was perhaps best expressed by the intro for US audiences to the English language version of the short film, which played in German in cities and towns across occupied Germany and Austria to showcase Nazi atrocities.  "It is a reminder that behind the curtain of Nazi pageants and parades, millions of men, women and children were tortured to death -- the worst mass murder in human history." The Bernstein film that was never made, (until recently under guidance of the Imperial War Museums staff,) was a subtler, more evocative exposé.

Friday, January 16, 2015

On Priorities

With a new semester, it begins again.   I am not talking about the classes, the meetings, the students, the committees, the scrambling to pick up loose strands left over from last semester.

I am talking about the promises we make to ourselves.  It is our new year's ritual in a world of busy, whether it is manufactured or organic busy.  Everywhere I turn, people are making bold declarations. "I will say 'no' more often."  "I will only check email twice a day." "I will remember to stop and breathe."  "I promise to make time for what matters to me and to stop wasting time on things that don't matter."  "No more Facebook!"  "No more Netflix." "No more letting people dump stuff on my shoulders.  I choose me!"

Everywhere I look, people want off the habitrail… Looking for meaning.  Purpose. Authenticity.  Time for the people and things we love.  The sense that we are in the right place, doing what we should be doing  -- a feeling that, if we were very lucky, we glimpsed for a moment or two as we nestled in with family and friends during the holidays.  Remember?  It was nice, wasn't it?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Historic Salem Re-Photography Class Photo of 2014

There  was drama from beginning to end.  Getting desks and chairs and setting them up outside Old Town Hall.  Getting  bunch of parking tickets at 8:23 a.m. (OK, I admit I am posting this in part to provide a link to it -- so I can prove to the Parking Hearing Officer that my entire class was downtown to set up this photo. I am hoping s/he will have mercy on me and my promise to protest or pay all the tickets!)  Getting wet on the rainy, slushy way to and from our site to take a photo to enter into a contest for first year seminar class pictures.  Since our class was on The City: History, Memory and Imagination, I think we did OK.







Monday, September 29, 2014

Historians Being Mean: A Glossary

Last night, while I was prepping for the seminar I teach on historiography, I realized that one of the reasons we teach historiography is to give students a basic vocabulary with which to critique historical research and writing.


There are instances in which the correct word matters, not the OK word or the more or less descriptive word.


(This, of course, is coming from the woman who, as a four year old, asked her mom if she could postpone her nap because she wasn't tired at the moment.  I used the perfectly appropriate word and got out of my nap.  Life lesson learned.  Check.)

In no particular order, then, here are a few of the most commonly used words historians sling at each other and what they mean.  Followed by what they really mean:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On Trigger Warnings, Landmines and Memory

Everyone's talking about trigger warnings in college classrooms this week.  This has me thinking about how we navigate "triggers" in our daily lives. 

It also makes me reflect on the utter unpredictability of things -- stories, images, sounds, events --  that trigger painful and traumatic memories.  This week, we've had some insight into how those operate in places where people have experienced and lived through violent conflict.

The trigger warning issue occupies prime real estate in contemporary culture wars.  Of course it does. After all, it is highly emotive, intensely polarized and wide open for criticism on either side of the debate. Plus, it involves feminists, who always get mocked for taking things too seriously and who never take that bullshit quietly.

 If you haven't been following the debate, college students across the nation are saying that they want to know which class sessions and readings/assignments will contain content or address issues that potentially trigger the onset of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.  The movement to make trigger warnings mandatory got underway last February at University of California Santa Barbara. Bailey Loverin, a student, raised the issue after feeling "forced" to sit through a film that described rape graphically.  She wanted to leave because the film raised her experience as a victim sexual abuse, but felt that walking out would  be extremely public. 

Since then, proposals by student senates have been presented at a wide array of colleges and universities.  The movement has its roots in feminist approaches to social media.




I sympathize with feminists who have championed trigger warnings as a means of creating and nurturing safer online spaces.  Websites and videos warn readers and viewers about disturbing content so they can either prepare for the possibility of being disturbed or avoid. I also tend to sympathize with the fuming academics who consider trigger warnings "inimical to academic freedom." Yes, I also think it is idiotic that The Great Gatsby might demand a trigger warning for suicide, domestic abuse and graphic violence.  And I would be really annoyed if I had to tag basically every class meeting in world history with a trigger warning --  but pretty much everything from the Haitian Revolution to the Vietnam era anti-war protests could conceivably fall under this category, right?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What People Think of Museums

What do people think of when they think about museums? 

Specifically, I am talking about what  college students, most of whom come from eastern Massachusetts, think of when you ask them to do a free association with the word "museums."  Now to be fair, this class of mine, Intro to Public History, has a mixed blend of students.  Some are avid young public historians and they take as many classes as they can in material culture, museum studies, architecture, local history, etc.  Others, ummm, it fit their schedule.   So here's what comes to mind for them:






I am not sure why we had so much fun with this, or why I found the exercise both utterly entertaining and oddly gratifying.  But I did.  We laughed a lot.  We had an intelligent conversation.  

I guess that's it.  We laughed a lot and had an intelligent conversation.  (Not necessarily mutually exclusive activities, but you'd be surprised how rarely the two occur simultaneously.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fun Home Follow-Up

A few posts back, I wrote about teaching Alison Bechdel's Fun Home for the first time.  I thought I'd follow up with a few reflections on how that went.





I love students' honesty.  Jabari commented as soon as we opened up the conversation that while he had originally had no intention of reading the book ("I was just going to read a summary",) he got engrossed and actually read it.  There were lots of nodding heads.  Aside from the whole, "I have no shame about telling you that I consider the syllabus purely as a set of vague recommendations," I considered it a win.  Fun Home had them hooked.

And then there's the motley band of students.  Of course, the debate began immediately with whether or not the dad had committed suicide. One student had spent eight years working in a funeral home and was adamant that a professional in the business would never choose a death as "messy" as getting run over by a truck.  "He never would have done that. Plus he was all about aesthetics and that is seriously not an aesthetically-pleasing way to go."


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Teaching Fun Home as Public History

I assigned Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic for the first time in Public History and my students are reading it now. It is an amazing graphic novel that just got turned into a musical.


I assigned it because I wanted to teach something about identity as it relates to the social frameworks of memory and to connect it to the ways in which we localize memories through landscapes, objects and images. I also wanted to do something on family history. 





So, what do I want students to get out of this reading experience?  What questions do I hope they ask and explore as they read the text and examine the graphics?  How do I encourage them to think beyond the coming of age/coming out/coming to terms with a gay dad stories to think about the structure of the text and the relationships between memory and identity?  The things that made the book so fascinating to me actually focused around Bechdel's literary relationship with her father --- she experienced the relationship through texts --- Joyce, Proust, Salinger, Faulkner, the ancient Greek myths. Her dad was an English teacher as well as a part time funeral home director.