As you step through the doorway of a history classroom, the lights are off as the teacher drones on about the importance of certain Revolutionary War battles. A plain PowerPoint slide is plastered across the front of the room. A few students are awake, actively taking notes, but the majority of the class is dead asleep as the teacher drones on, unfazed by this behavior. This is what many stereotypically characterize a history class to look like, probably because that is what they were exposed to. As a history teacher, I am no stranger to the adversity that educators face when it comes to making historical content relatable to their students. I teach at E.B. Aycock Middle School, located in Pitt County in eastern North Carolina, a school with an extremely diverse student population in terms of both race and socioeconomic status.
I attended East Carolina University, and graduated in May of 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in History Education, and I am certified to teach history in grades 6-12. After spending the first two years of my teaching career as an 8th grade Social Studies teacher, I have initiated my return to the high school classroom (my original certification) to teach history. I am a member of the History Department at J.H. Rose High School, and am extremely passionate about what I teach. I enjoy having the opportunity to interest young minds in history, and pride myself on making it "fun!"
Writing Project Site
This project was successful because it tapped into not only student interests, but peer culture as well. They were able to examine events and people who lived hundreds of years before them and bring them to life in the present. Had I attempted to lecture about this information, I likely would have put them to sleep because of how “boring” it was, but allowing students free reign to create their own product allowed them to present what they perceived as “boring” information in a fun, creative, and new way. My experience in the #CLMOOC and #TRWPconnect made me realize that it is not important to have explicit instructions.
I have found that students are thrilled when offered the opportunity to create Facebook accounts because these are two social media networks that use regularly and are comfortable with. Makes involving social networks spark student interest, even in those who are typically resistant to “creative” project ideas. One such Make was to create a Facebook account for a founding father, and students were offered multiple different format options: a paper template, an online “Fakebook” account creator, or an opportunity to use any online medium of their choosing (like Google Draw). They were directed to include a short biography, at least one post by their founding father, at least one post by one of their “friends,” and who at least two of their “friends” would be.
My overall experience with the #TRWPconnect MOOC, a remix of NWP’s 2013 #CLMOOC with the Tar River Writing Project (TRWP) has helped shape me as an educator. I have learned that there are many more options in the “teacher-verse” for hands-on projects and a variety of online resources that can be applied to the classroom that we have yet to harness. The concepts of collaborative and connected learning highlighted throughout this experience inspired me to become more connected with my colleagues in a way that has furthered my instructional practice, and I have encouraged my students to practice these as well.
My main goal as an educator has been to incorporate peer culture and student interests in lessons and assignments as a way of encouraging students to become actively involved in history. Students should not be bystanders to history; they should be involved in it! History is a subject that many students are not inclined to be interested in; honestly, many students find history to be boring and irrelevant, particularly at the middle school level. To give you a better idea of this struggle faced by many history teachers, here is a brief list of common student frustrations: