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Reflections on the start of the semester and teaching

September 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, it is good to be back in the game again. I know the content has been lacking for a long time, but with summer, there’s not much to write about. I am in the classroom this fall, teaching a section of History 103, the United States to 1877, as well as taking a readings course on the Anglo-Atlantic World, and a research seminar. In addition to that, I am still blogging and reviewing books, and have begun a foray into Civil War reenacting. My colleague Stuart Lawrence and I began a Civil War Round Table in April and are trying to get it off the ground. Needless to say, I am busy.

Having done a couple lectures so far, I am slowly starting to get into a nice groove. The one thing I still have trouble with is using Power Point for my lectures, as none of my professors at Illinois College used it. Despite that, the students are a great group and seem attentive. I am starting to get them to come out of their shells and talk in class a little more. It seems that they are getting what I am presenting in lecture. I am trying to use a little humor to get them to open up with varying success.

I will say that the biggest challenge is preparing for each class, as I always have in the back in my mind the issue of whether or not I am presenting the material right and to an appropriate level. I have gotten some positive feedback from a couple students on the textbook I chose. The class is also reading Joseph Plumb Martin’s memoir as well, which I hope they enjoy and will gain something from reading it.

Overall, I am finding teaching rewarding and look forward to working with and getting to know the students. I hope to get posting here more in the coming weeks, as I am back in the groove and will possibly have some fellow doctoral students from the department involved as well to broaden the view. Until next time, keep researching and working.

A new semester

It is that time of year again, the beginning of the new semester. This semester will be a great one, as I will be taking courses dealing with the American West, a research seminar that will allow me to complete a chapter of the dissertation, and a Public History project dealing with oral history, where I will interview local World War II veterans who participated in the Honor Flights to visit the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, to understand their experiences in the conflict and how visiting the memorial affected them.

I will also be returning to North Dakota History, with a new group of students and an additional teaching assistant, which will lighten the workload for me. I will also devote some time to preparing for my class in the fall, which will be exciting and challenging. When that time arrives, I will devote many posts to examining the interesting angles of teaching my own class for the first time, with some of them appearing on Teaching Thursday, so stay tuned to this site. It’s good to be back in the swing of things and I look forward to sharing the fun with you.

Dakota Territory, Railroads, and Oral History

As I prepare to grade a few exams this evening while battling congestion and a slight headache (No, the exams are not the cause.), I thought I would recap what has happened the last few days. On Friday, we continued our examination of Dakota Territory and began looking at railroads on Monday and how the Northern Pacific Railroad came to dominate territorial and early state politics based on how much land the federal government gave them. This power ultimately led to the development of the Nonpartisan League (NPL), which is my area of focus now, in the 1910s. In addition to the lecture, Dr. Porter and I have been working to grade exams (I am doing the exams) and the students’ first encyclopedia entries.

In class today, we had a visit from Dr. Porter, who talked about oral history, public history, and the many wonderful opportunities in both areas. She also discussed the Oral History Review, the major scholarly journal in oral history, and how a journal goes about handling submissions. It was a very informative talk and I learned about several opportunities that I will attempt to take advantage of in the future. I will have a couple interesting things in the next two days to cover, including live blogging for Teaching Thursday at an upcoming colloquium on Friday and delivering a lecture on Friday for Dr. Porter, as she will be in St. Cloud for the Northern Great Plains History Conference. So, until next time, keep researching and doing history.

Teaching observation-Dr. Pederson and Dr. Kelsch visits class

Today, three classmates and I ventured to scenic Mayville, ND to observe Dr. John Pederson’s History 103 class at Mayville State University. It was an interesting class complete with a unique learning exercise involving the letters between John and Abigail Adams, where students were asked to either applaud or hiss at certain points. Dr. Pederson then engaged students with various questions, which students answered. Overall, the class was good, despite being held in a choir room. We discussed teaching philosophy with Dr. Pederson.

After a quick lunch, we returned to Grand Forks and attended class, which included a visit by Dr. Anne Kelsch of the Office of Instructional Development, and formerly of the History Department. We had a good talk and learned about exercises she did in class and what her office offered for instructors on campus. Despite the long day, we learned much about teaching techniques and services.