History, and our understanding of history should be fluid and open to change. The student of history ought to become part archaeologist and part time traveler engaged in the continual quest for information, data, and analysis. Contrary to the scientific approach, which starts with the formation of hypotheses followed by research, history focuses on the asking of questions, learning the answers to those questions, and using those answers as a foundation for stronger more detailed questions. The student who learns the historian’s trade will be empowered to succeed with the most fundamental of skills: to learn how to learn.
I use innovative methods based upon my own research in teaching the historian’s trade to guide and empower my students. I focus on showing my students by using an example of the task I want them to perform as a regular form of teaching.
For example, I may use a multimedia presentation comprised of primary sources to teach an abstract concept, such as a reading of a slave poem complete with images (sketches as well as early photography of slave beatings) with an underscore of mood appropriate period music. The objective is to evoke an emotional response and place slavery in its human context, not just an abstract concept in a textbook. The use of pictures and music allows the student to see and feel a complex issue in its historical context. Issues of the past inform our present, putting present issues in historical context, which brings history to a personal level, allowing students to learn from their own past and realize they have choices about their futures. In this way, the complexities of history unfold into a tangible and relatable form, while simultaneously showing students exactly how they themselves will be expected to share what they’ve learned by creating their own multimedia presentation, for example. A couple additional teaching strategies include:
• Oral History: Research and conduct an oral interview of a contemporary who was involved in an historical event. I would teach students about the 1983 invasion of Grenada, a.k.a. Operation Urgent Fury, by sharing my own oral interview and research. This provides the students with an “eyewitness account” of an historical event and provides an opportunity to develop the students’ critical thinking skills by showing the potential that what one reads about may not be as accurate as one thinks. For example, history textbooks often paint a picture of Grenadians welcoming the Americans with open arms, but my interviewee told stories of snipers and resistance that lasted longer than the official history indicates. In addition, oral history projects make history anecdotal by placing historical events in a real-life context, relating history to concepts familiar with a student’s life. Small, moderator-led discussion groups provide a forum to assess whether students understand the event and can think critically and analytically about its significance and relevance; whereas, having students then perform their own oral interviews requires them to demonstrate that they can use the tools and skills learned to engage in primary research and analysis.
• Basic Research: Examine primary documents (letters, journals, broadsheets, articles, or editorial cartoons) written in the context of the day and time as events unfold. Documents will be hand-selected by the teacher to build scaffolding for students to frame the targeted lesson and learning objectives. In teaching, the use of a primary textbook, secondary source books, and primary documents is essential. Each week, a portion of class time is comprised of overview lectures that cover the textbook materials, assessed by in-class examinations, with the remaining class time dedicated to small, moderator-led (guided) group discussions and student presentations, centered primarily on the primary source materials. Before beginning the reading of a secondary book, I will incorporate an extra session for an overview lecture and discussion. Knowledge of the secondary source materials will be evaluated based on essays and/or a research paper.
I believe that it is important to empower students by making history hands on and interactive. Contrary to traditional approaches to the discipline, I teach to an outline of core competencies, not an amalgam of memorized facts and dates. Although the skills and knowledge gained are tailored to the historian, they are equally essential to the average liberal studies student’s success in a constantly changing world. The ultimate outcome is to have the student think critically and in an historical context by effectively communicating themes, ideas, and subject matter in written and oral format. Students will be able apply basic research methods to discover appropriate primary and secondary sources and critically assess those sources in order to demonstrate a general aptitude for knowing which tools and resources to seek and apply in order to answer a given question.
In my professional employment as a certified paralegal, I often taught paralegal interns and new attorneys hired by our firm. I created materials on policies/procedures and, in the case of paralegal interns, an overview of the law practiced by our firm. I made the process interactive by using case materials to demonstrate the impact of the law on the client’s life, demonstrated how the law might impact their lives, and provided the opportunity for constructive feedback in Q & A sessions. As a non-traditional student who worked full-time while completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I understand the struggles of time management and deadline scheduling that students face and will be an invaluable advisor, providing practical tips on how to balance school, work and life demands.
In sum, all of my pedagogical strategies are dedicated to interweaving my professional and academic experiences with my innate passion for making history come to life while simultaneously empowering students with the tools to succeed in their lives, academically and professionally.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Queens University of Charlotte - Bachelors, American Studies
Graduate Degree: Winthrop University - Masters, History
GRE Analytical Writing: 5
Reading, writing, video games
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
History and our understanding of history should be fluid and open to change. Therefore, the student of history ought to become part archaeologist and part time traveler engaged in the continual quest for information, data, and analysis. Contrary to traditional approaches to the discipline, I teach to empower students by making history a hands-on and interactive exploration of core competencies, not an amalgam of memorized facts and dates. The ultimate outcome for students is to think critically and in a historical context by effectively communicating themes, ideas, and subject matter in written and oral format. All of my pedagogical strategies are dedicated to interweaving my professional and academic experiences with my innate passion for making history come to life, while simultaneously empowering students with the tools to succeed in their lives, academically and professionally.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
The first session with a student is an assessment. Meet with the parent/legal guardian and the student, determine what their needs are and structure an outline in order to achieve desired goals.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Be developing a partnership with a student, involving them in the planning and approach to the topic, and not focusing on the "right" or "wrong" answers. With regard to history, there is more interpretation than there is right or wrong. I focus on the interpretation, the motivation of the actors leading up to the events.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
By providing a fun lesson plan, built in conjunction with the student. Education is communication, finding out what the student likes and dislikes and getting their involvement.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Determine where the "block" was coming from and try different and/or unique approaches to the skill/concept.