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In his blog post, "Model Voice-Overs," Eric Nelson draws from his experience teaching online to share his perspective on transitioning the world history survey course from a face-to-face to an online Eric Nelsonenvironment. In particular, Eric discusses how he has used brief, focused podcasts to guide his students through their reading -- and how these podcasts can be embedded in the e-book in LaunchPad to bring together a combination of the text, commentary, and other activities to engage students.  For instructors moving online for the first time, check out Eric's advice for getting started with podcasts using the most important aspects of your current live lectures.

 

Read the full article here on the World History Association's blog.

Eric Nelson is a WHA Executive Council member and co-author of Ways of the World.

I think it’s safe to say that none of us are experiencing the spring semester we envisioned when it began in January. I was on Spring Break when COVID-19-related closures, cancellations, and postponements began. My college extended our break a second week to give faculty time to plan for fully-online teaching and students an opportunity to figure out what their at-home technology needs will be. 

 

For students who take all their courses in traditional, on-campus classrooms the change to fully online is daunting. A few have emailed me and expressed concern about their internet access. I’ve sent dozens of emails to students over the past seven days with instructions about plans for this coming week online. I can only hope that students are able to access email at home and are carefully reading my messages. It is my hope that in the months that follow this crisis there will be a larger discussion about internet access for all. As a commuter campus, many of my students rely on the college’s computing center or their public library for WiFi access necessary for their academic work. With the campus completely closed to human visitors, it remains to be seen what the impact will be on students’ ability to complete courses.

 

No doubt we are all struggling to learn as much as possible about the current pandemic while  finding ways to help our students understand the historical context. For those of you not familiar with the history of medicine and healthcare in the United States, I want to recommend some resources that may be useful during this time.

 

For general suggestions about connecting the history of medicine to survey-level US history classes, see my blog from January 2019 “Making Connections: History & Medicine”. If you have not previously incorporated healthcare history into survey courses, now is a great time to start planning to do so in the future. 

 

Revisiting my 2018 blog about influenza may also be helpful, see “Sharing ‘the Flu’ with Students”. My US History II students studied the 1918 outbreak in February. I’ve heard from several students who feel some relief in having historical context with which to evaluate this current crisis. 

 

Finally, there are many informative articles being published online that can be useful in our struggle to contextualize current events for today’s anxious students. I highly recommend history faculty visit PULSE: Medical & Health Humanities, a site produced by scholars in the Netherlands; particularly useful is Professor Manon Parry’s article “Learning from the (Recent) Past” (March 23rd, 2020). In addition, many scholars are sharing materials online to help each other through this challenging teaching moment. The American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM)’s Facebook page is a great place for historians and teachers to ask questions and exchange information, including primary sources, during this crisis.

 

Finally, it may also be meaningful to remind your students that they are living through a major historical event. Suggest that they keep a journal or scrapbook to memorialize this period of their life. Historians of the future will one day be gathering evidence of what we experienced during this pandemic. Encouraging our students to document their personal experiences is a great way to connect them to the larger human narrative that we seek to share as historians. 

In January the New York Times evaluated the narratives presented by eight US history textbooks  to explore the choices states make about history education. Focusing on California and Texas, in “Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two Stories”  Dana Goldstein argues, “In a country that cannot come to a consensus on fundamental questions — how restricted capitalism should be, whether immigrants are a burden or a boon, to what extent the legacy of slavery continues to shape American life — textbook publishers are caught in the middle. On these questions and others, classroom materials are not only shaded by politics, but are also helping to shape a generation of future voters.”

 

As a full-time faculty member I have complete control over which textbook I choose for my community college students. Nonetheless, I was fascinated by the Times examination of the textbook question because what students learn in K-12 truly influences how they think about the world around them and the ideas of our national history that they bring with them to college. In most public schools history teachers are racing to cover dozens of topics in the span of a nine-month school year. For those whose states require standardized testing for graduation, the stakes are often higher and more complex.

 

The political differences evidenced by the topical choices made by textbook publishers did not surprise me. More conservative school boards choose textbooks that reflect their way of thinking and vice versa for moderate and liberal boards. What fascinated me most about the Times piece were the comments by readers. I’m assuming that demographically the average New York Times reader is both educated and interested in the world around him/her. Threads among the more than 600 comments, however, reflected readers’ short-sighted assessments of the quality of teachers who use textbooks. “Very Silly in Colorado,” for example: “I had incredible history professors in high school...none of them used textbooks.” “James from Boston,” a teacher, boasts the “use [of] zero textbooks” in his classroom. Other readers suggested the development of one textbook to be used by public school children nationwide would solve the problem of over-zealous school boards. “AJC in Paris” writes “If only we could have a National Curriculum researched and vetted by educators only.” 

 

These -- and many, many other -- comments concern me on a number of levels. The notion that a classroom teacher is somehow deficient or lazy because he/she uses a textbook needs to be dispelled immediately. I teach at a community college. My students range in age from seventeen-year-old high school students working towards college credit to traditional eighteen-year old freshman to middle-age parents trying to complete degrees or changing careers. We need a common place to start: a shared narrative to explore, which is what a good textbook provides. Are there students in my classes who disagree at times with the textbook publishers’ thematic choices or are critical of what they view as a political perspective? Absolutely. Nonetheless, the text is a central starting point for my teaching. Am I biased in my choice? Yes! Although I teach the general US surveys, I deliberately choose a textbook that focuses specifically on social and cultural history. No doubt a political historian would find my choice short-sighted.

 

The notion of a “national curriculum” is also problematic. The idea that such a thing could be created without bias is implausible. Historians are among the scholars best suited to convey to students a deeper understanding of the reality that all information is, in fact, biased: from the newspapers that we read, to the texts/emails/letters that we send, to the textbooks in all of our classrooms. In the classroom we make choices based on what we believe will work best with our student population and school boards do the same in their communities. Recent criticism of the The 1619 Project by prominent scholars should remind us that even historians do not completely agree when it comes to modern-day interpretations of America’s past. 

 

As historians and teachers, the best that we can do for our students is offer them a starting point for understanding our national past, recognizing that all interpretations are going to be influenced (in good ways and bad) by biased sources. Encouraging the students to find the flaws in the sources -- even in their course textbooks -- might be the most effective way to guard against creating a generation of students whose beliefs conform to only one idea or argument. Helping our students recognize and question bias needs to start in our classrooms with our textbooks.

As Black History Month comes to a close, I think it's important that we remember that learning about Black history shouldn't be confined to the month of February; it is imperative that we continue to learn and understand the contributions Black Americans have made in the United States.

Here is a list of great books and videos to learn more:

 

Read

  1. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet A. Jacobs
  2. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
  3. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  4. Beloved, by Toni Morrison 
  5. Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
  6. The 1619 Project, by The New York Times
  7. Chocolate Me!, by Taye Diggs 
  8. Becoming, by Michelle Obama
  9. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  10. Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances by Leland Melvin
  11. I am Perfectly Designed, by Karamo Brown
  12. 28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World, by Charles R. Smith Jr.

 

  1. The Dangers of Whitewashing Black History | David Ikard | TEDxNashville
  2. Talks to celebrate Black History Month
  3. BlacKkKlansman
  4. Freedom Riders

   5. Quincy

We are almost at the midpoint of spring semester and requests for letters of recommendation are starting to pile up. Teaching at a community college necessitates that faculty support students' transfer applications, which are generally due later in the admissions process than those of first-year students. The fact that the overwhelming majority of my students are not continuing on in my field of study makes writing these letters more challenging. I would love to be able to share the perspective that a student’s love of history would no doubt flourish when he/she had the opportunity to take upper-level courses. Reality, however, is that in the nearly fourteen years I have taught community college students, fewer than a handful have gone on to major in history. It’s my job, then, to help admissions counselors to see that a community college student’s success in a college-level humanities class is, in fact, indicative of his/her potential to be successful in virtually any area of study. 

 

While I cannot be certain that my approach to writing letters of recommendation for transfer students is the “right” way, here are some of the things that I ask my students to think about and share with me before I write a letter:

 

  • What specific field is the student hoping to enter and why?
  • What has he/she done work/internship/class-wise that has led to this decision?
  • What specific personal challenges has he/she overcome to be successful academically?
  • How has community college prepared him/her for the next step in their journey?

 

In my letters I focus on the specific skills that I believe college-level history classes offer to all undergraduates, regardless of their intended field of study: critical thinking, research, and writing. Since all of my students are required to complete a research project I am able to describe the individual student’s written work and what he/she accomplished with the assigned project. For many community college students, history is one of the few fields in which library-based research is required. I emphasize to college admissions committees that to pass introductory-level college history classes my students have had to prove proficiency in basic research methods that include developing thesis statements, supporting arguments with primary source documents, and properly citing materials. 

 

Since my students regularly participate in group discussions, I tell admissions counselors about the individual student’s ability to formulate an oral argument and share ideas with the class. This is particularly useful as a letter of recommendation topic when a student has shown leadership potential in a group setting.

 

I’m currently writing a letter for a student who will study engineering at his next college. Simply telling the admissions committee that he received an A in each of my introductory level classes, I believe, is insufficient. It is in our students' best interests that we as humanities faculty directly identify to people outside of our fields the academic competence and confidence that students gain from humanities courses like history and how those skills can be applied to virtually any academic field. And, that we convince admissions counselors that our students' humanities experiences at the two-year college level will make them quality contributors to their next academic community.

As a historian I struggle with Hollywood-versions of history. Based on a “true story” or “actual events” generally indicates, to me, that some well-meaning writers have taken an historical event and glamorized it for a modern-day audience. While the scenery and costumes might seem authentic, the stories themselves are often re-invented with minimal historical accuracy.

 

In 2002, during my first teaching job after graduate school I taught a class that covered US history 1960 to the present. We spent a lot of time talking about popular culture and I encouraged students to share with the class music from the period that they found historically relevant. That same semester I let students earn extra credit by seeing movies related to topics we covered in class and writing reviews that addressed historical accuracy. This assignment was useful until students became more internet savvy and realized that they could plagiarize reviews from web sites without ever having to see the films. 

 

Although I have since stopped rewarding students extra credit for seeing historically-based films, I still love to discuss them in class. In recent years several films have provided topics for discussion, including “Hidden Figures,” “Green Book,” and “Selma.” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” sparked an interesting pre-class discussion recently as students sought to understand what actually happened to actress Sharon Tate versus the filmmaker’s fictionalized version of events. My Macmillan Community colleague, Jack Solomon, addressed this film in a recent blog about facts in this era of fake news. 

 

“1917” is another historically-based film that has captured a lot of attention in recent months. Having read numerous reviews of the film, I finally had a chance to see it with my high school-age son. Since I’m not a military historian I am not able to evaluate the accuracy of director Sam Mendes’s recreation of World War I battlefield scenes. I did, nonetheless, appreciate the way in which the film captured the anxiety of being a soldier in the era of trench warfare, including the shocking visual horrors of the battlefield. As we talked about the film afterwards, I found myself wishing that I knew more about trench warfare so that I could answer my son’s more specific questions. Herein, I thought, lies the problem with Hollywood’s historical fiction: historians are not readily available to talk to movie-goers post-viewing about what is/is not accurate in the film.  

 

A few days later, however, an amazing thing happened: my son told me that he had chosen the English poet and war-veteran Wilfred Owen as the subject of the in depth author study that his 10th-grade English class was beginning. “1917,” it seems, had inspired him to think about how the characters in the film would have described their experiences in writing. Studying Owen’s poetry, he hopes, will provide some insight into an aspect of the war’s history that viewers of the film can only imagine. 

 

I share this story here on my blog because I have been guilty in the past of avoiding historical fiction because of what it gets wrong. I’m inspired to find new ways to get my current students to think about 21st-century historical interpretations because of the possibility that modern-day depictions of such events might in fact encourage them to want to learn the true historical facts. Ideas and suggestions welcome!  

January 25, 2020 is an important day for Chinese people: it’s the beginning of the Chinese New Year. But, what makes this new year more special than every other new year is that it’s the beginning of a new cycle. As we finish up the year of the pig, the 12th and last animal in the zodiac cycle, the start a new cycle with the very first animal in the Chinese zodiac--the year of the rat.

 

There are various stories on how the Chinese zodiac came to be. One of the most popular stories is about the race orchestrated by the Jade Emperor. In short, the Jade Emperor asked 13 animals to partake in a race and their placement in the race will determine the order of the zodiac¹. Because the rat was the first one to win the race, the first animal in the zodiac cycle begins with the rat. As for the 13th animal, there are various reasons why the cat is not part of the zodiac. The one I heard growing up was that the rat tricked the cat to cross a river to test the currents and it nearly drowned. That is also why cats and rats are enemies and it’s why cats hate water.

 

In contrast to the more lighthearted story of the Chinese zodiac, the story about Chinese New Year is darker. According to Britannica, there was a monster named Nian (meaning “year” in Chinese) that would attack and eat villagers every year². But, villagers fought back: people wore red because Nian was afraid of bright colors, and they lit fireworks because it was afraid of loud noises. This practice still occurs in China: to celebrate the new year, people still wear bright colors like red and gold and light firecrackers to ward off bad luck and evil.

 

Every Chinese family celebrates Chinese New Year in a different way, but there are some common practices:

  • Wearing red and gold/yellow clothing to usher the new year with good luck and auspiciousness
  • Having a giant banquet with family members with vegetarian/vegan options since many people opt out from eating animal products on this day.
  • Giving red envelopes with money inside. People avoid giving amounts that have the number “4” in it because the number is a homonym for the Chinese word “to die”.

 

For me, Chinese New Year is about representation. Despite growing up in a liberal city, I often felt neglected when it comes to learning more about my heritage and even more so when celebrating it. Chinese New Year was not a recognized holiday, taking a day off from school counted against me. When I was a student, I often asked my teachers to include a lesson plan on Asian American history and our contributions to society. More often than not, I got a quick lesson on the Transcontinental Railroad. But, we are more than just our hardships; Asian Americans have made large contributions to society and in American policy, most notably in the Supreme Court Case: United States v. Wong Kim Ark³

 

With the start of the new cycle and the new year, I can’t help but reflect on how much has changed in the last 12 years when the current cycle began. 12 years ago there were fields that were difficult, if not impossible for Asian Americans to break into. And yet, we continue to make strides to break through the bamboo ceiling. In cinema, Nora Lum known to many as Awkwafina, became the first Asian woman to win a Golden Globe for her role in The Farewell; Sundar Pichai is the CEO of Alphabet, the parent company of Google; and as of today, we currently have two presidential candidates who are of Asian descent: Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard. I am both confident and refreshed in knowing that our collective efforts in challenging the status quo is making a difference. I cannot wait to see what the new crop of Asian American trailblazers will do for the next generation of leaders.

 

Footnotes

  1. BBC. “Why a pig is the last animal in the Chinese Zodiac.” BBC.com. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/zd9nd6f
  2. Tikkanen, Amy. “Chinese New Year.” Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Tano
  3. Oyez. “United States v. Wong Kim Ark.” Oyez.org

https://www.oyez.org/cases/1850-1900/169us649

Suzanne McCormack

(Extra) Help Wanted

Posted by Suzanne McCormack Expert Jan 22, 2020

It’s the first week of spring semester and I’m already feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of duties ahead of me in the coming months. Yesterday in class I heard myself telling students “not to be overly stressed by the syllabus on the first day.” At the same time in my own head I was thinking: “how will I ever get all of this accomplished in 3½ months?”

 

Reality is that I’ve been teaching long enough to know that while the semester will move quickly  somehow what I planned for my students will get done. It struck me yesterday, however, that the students who sit before me do not have years of academic success to fall back on as reassurance that they can conquer the challenges ahead. While some students come to a community college for reasons that include economics, change of career or geography, many also come because they have failed to achieve their academic goals at four-year colleges. I’m thinking a lot this week about how we as faculty can help those students who have under-achieved in the past be successful in the future.

 

Yesterday, in addition to outlining the syllabus and academic requirements, I added a short pep talk to my course introduction: not one person in the room, I reminded them, signed up with the intention of failing and/or withdrawing. I asked them to think carefully about what being “successful” will require. 

 

Success amidst the challenges of family and work life will require putting in the time necessary to complete course assignments. As I went through the syllabus yesterday I suggested that students give serious thought to how long it will take each of them to read a textbook chapter. In other words, I encouraged them to start the semester off by planning their homework time realistically. In any academic subject area, step one of this challenge is getting students to accept that they need to make a significant time commitment to their academic success. In reading-intensive subjects such as history and English the necessity of mapping out their use of time is often overlooked because they may not be asked to turn something in with every section of reading assigned. 

 

Talking with students on the first day of classes I was reminded that one of the biggest obstacles to student success is their willingness to acknowledge when things are not going well and to ask for help. While this responsibility falls squarely on each students’ shoulders, I’m planning to introduce an additional safety net to my introductory level classes this semester by taking advantage of our college’s new outreach program from the Student Success Center. My on-campus classes will be introduced next week to an “academic coach” from the Center who will share with them all of the support systems available at the college and then be available to my students throughout the semester via email and individual appointments. My hope is that by introducing this academic coach to my students in a short 10-minute presentation during our class time they will be better equipped to ask for extra help with writing and reading when challenges arise during the semester.

 

Ultimately, my students need to be able to transfer their community college credits to four-year schools. Beyond the credit hours and grades, however, they need to take with them the skills and confidence necessary for academic success. I’m hoping that linking an academic coach to my introductory history courses will offer them extra support in this process and result in better student outcomes. Looking forward to sharing an update later in the semester!

 

What challenges are you preparing for as we begin spring semester?

I’ve been viewing the documentary “The Murder of Emmett Till” (PBS) with students in my US History II sections for as long as I can remember. The tragic history of this young boy’s murder, more than any other civil rights-related story I’ve shared, seems to captivate the students, many of whom are only recently out of high school, and instill in them a deep sense of frustration and anger. It forces them to grapple with the profound sadness of Mamie Till while also recognizing the courage with which she challenged Americans to face the horrifying reality of violence against African Americans in her lifetime. 

   

As I plan to teach the course again in the spring I’ve been (as always) reassessing my syllabus. Based upon this semester’s students’ interests, I’ve decided that we will increase our study of the Till case in the spring to include both online resources and recent coverage of the reopening of the case by the Justice Department. Here are some of the resources I plan to use with my students.

 

  • PBS maintains a web site to accompany the film with numerous articles valuable for class discussion and analysis. Included is the published confession by the two men who murdered Till as well as historical information on lynching in the United States.

 

  • Florida State University has launched The Emmett Till Archives with archival materials derived from the case as well as audio-visual documentation of interviews with participants in the trial and subsequent legal actions.

 

  • 2018 news coverage of the re-opening of the Till trial is available through numerous national news sites, including NPR, Time, and CNN, providing students the opportunity to consider how the narrative of the Till case is being shaped in today’s world in light of Black Lives Matter and other major civil rights initiatives.

 

Discussion of the Till case this past semester prompted students to ask questions about the clumsy process of school desegregation following Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which is not a topic I typically cover in the course. For spring semester I will be using components of Old Dominion University’s Desegregation of Virginia Education (DOVE) web-based resources. I’m hopeful that the interest expressed in this topic by my fall semester students will be shared by those I teach in the spring. The biggest challenge will be deciding where I can trim the syllabus to make space! Have you done any trimming to your US II syllabus recently? Suggestions welcome.

December 15, 1791--Virginia became the last state needed to ratify the Bill of Rights, giving the bill the necessary 2/3 majority of votes needed to be made into law¹. Since its inception, the Bill of Rights has become the cornerstone of American civil liberties, but the interpretations of these amendments have always been in flux--changing to suit the needs and interpretations of both the legal system and the country's political opinions. For instance, the Bill of Rights included 12 Amendment, two of which were left out, one later then was ratified in 1992 becoming the 27th Amendment¹ .

 

The Supreme Court continues to have an impact on the Bill of Rights. Here are several landmark cases that have redefined the boundaries of the Bill of Rights:

 

1.Schenck v. United States (1919)

In a unanimous vote, the Supreme Court had ruled that freedom of speech can be limited during wartime and when it can cause harm. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1900-1940/249us47

2. Olmstead v. United States (1927)

The Supreme Court had ruled that the government is allowed to wiretap people without a warrant and that it is admissible in court. It wasn't until 40 years later that this ruling was overturned in Katz v. United States. https://billofrightsinstitute.org/educate/educator-resources/lessons-plans/landmark-supreme-court-cases-elessons/olmstead-v-united-states-1927/

3. Furman v. Georgia (1972)

The Supreme Court had decided that the death penalty is a "cruel and unusual" punishment under the 8th Amendment and, therefore, was unconstitutional. Four years later, the Supreme Court reversed that ruling under Gregg v. Georgia. https://billofrightsinstitute.org/educate/educator-resources/lessons-plans/landmark-supreme-court-cases-elessons/gregg-v-georgia-1962/

If you would like to incorporate information on landmark cases in your classroom, feel free to check out:

https://billofrightsinstitute.org/educate/educator-resources/lessons-plans/landmark-supreme-court-cases-elessons

 

1. Bill of Rights is finally ratified - HISTORY 

Students are turning in final projects this week for my online courses. With only two weeks until final exams, the end of the semester is bearing down on us all. And though these students have been working with me since the first week of September, many are still struggling with a basic life skill: following directions. They have had several weeks to work independently on their projects and plenty of time to ask questions. Yet, in spite of what I have offered them in instruction and assistance, I am receiving finished work from students who clearly did not read the directions. 

 

Case in point: sources. Here is the actual text from my instructions (highlighting in original):

Required Sources: Three articles from assigned academic databases (*see below*)

*ACADEMIC DATABASES: Students must use materials from the databases linked through the college library to our course. Link is accessible through our course LaunchPad.

*UNACCEPTABLE SOURCES:  Wikipedia, History.com, Ask.com OR anything NOT from the assigned academic databases.

To my horror, the first few projects I received from students contain none of the required sources. I am wracking my brain to understand why. Was I mistaken to believe that highlighting what I considered an essential requirement of the assignment would force students to pay attention to it? Is there some new way of drawing students’ attention to key elements of instructions that I have missed? Or, are my online students simply not reading the directions? 

As a strong proponent of online courses I teach half of my course load online. Nonetheless, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what the students might miss by not physically being in a classroom for instruction. I, for example, do not have the opportunity to observe confusion on students’ faces when I give assignments. Instead I have no choice but to rely on students’ willingness to email me with questions. Is there something more I could be doing? Do we, as faculty, have an obligation to ensure that our online students have read and understood the directions? For those who teach online in any discipline, what (if any) steps are you taking to address this challenge? Please share.

Hello everyone!

 

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, Macmillan hosted a plethora of events to raise awareness about Native American culture and history. Here are some of the events that we had held.

 

Earlier this month, we had a screening of Rumble: The Indians Who Have Rocked the World. The documentary focused on the contributions made by Native Americans in music and in modern culture. Interested in incorporating this movie in your class? Feel free to check this out, it’s a great resource with lesson plans and ideas on how to do so.

 

Last week, we invited Heather Bruegl to speak to us about the important contributions made by Native American women. Heather Bruegl is an educator and an activist and has spoken to numerous organizations on Native American history. Make sure to check out the video below:

 

 

Listen to our podcast from the new co-authors of The American PromiseSarah Igo and François Furstenberg. In this episode, Sarah and François address questions from the history teaching community on becoming textbook authors, teaching American history, and the complications of education today. 

 

To learn more about The American Promise or to request an exam copy, please visit our catalog.

 

The American Promise 8e Podcast

This past weekend I had the opportunity to look through my high school report cards. It would probably shock my former history teachers that I pursued a career in a subject area where I squeaked out B-minuses semester after semester. As someone who teaches at a community college I find myself fascinated by the trajectory of student academic paths. So often I see students trying to choose a direction at a young age -- selecting a major or area of study as soon as possible so that course selection will be more seamless. Looking back at those high school grades reminds me that had I made a choice at 18 and stuck with it, I never would have ended up in my current career. 

 

For so many of my current students the cost of a four-year college is daunting. They arrive at community college hoping to get through the first two years of higher education without incurring debt so that they can borrow for years three and four. I imagine for those students the thought of spending thousands of dollars with no guarantee of a high-paying job is beyond frightening. 

 

My college path could not have been more different from that of my students. Arriving at Wheaton College (MA) as a freshman in the fall of 1990 -- with the financial and emotional support of my amazing parents -- I was certain that I would be an English major (probably because it was the subject I disliked least in high school). Second semester, however, I took a class in Modern US History -- a subject area we had never come close to in secondary-level history classes. My professor, Alexander Bloom, truly captivated me with his teaching style and obvious mastery of the subject matter. He invited students to stop by his office with questions and he showed episodes of the (then recent) documentary series “Eyes on the Prize” outside of class for extra-credit. I was hooked. I can remember searching my notebook for questions to ask just so I could chat with him for a few minutes at office hours.

 

Professor Bloom is preparing to retire this year. So many former Wheaton students owe a debt of gratitude to Alex for the way in which he encouraged us to love studying history. He was a truly gifted story-teller in the era before PowerPoint presentations and classrooms with digital projection. For students like myself who were searching for an academic interest to which we could connect personally and passionately, his intelligence and quick wit were a true gift in the classroom. No doubt countless students of every academic major took US history classes at Wheaton over the years because they wanted to experience the unique ways Alex connected students to the past.

 

Perhaps it’s cliche to be “thankful” in the month of November. I feel compelled to use this week’s blog, nonetheless, to acknowledge the teachers over the years who encouraged me. Every once in a while a student will write a note or send an email to me acknowledging some small act that I see as part of my job but that he/she felt particularly inspired by. I remind myself in those moments that I was not always a strong student -- I had many days that I was disinterested or uninspired. I had my share of lousy test grades. What kept me going was the hard work of men and women -- like Alex Bloom and many others-- who were committed to their students’ forward progress and who believed that any student could flourish when she found the right path.  For those, and many, many other lessons, I’m grateful. 

Did you know that November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance?

 

Transgender Day of Remembrance was first started in November 20th 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender advocate, who had held a vigil for Rita Hessler, a transgender women who was killed in 1998¹. What started off as a small annual event grew into a campaign that is observed every year in remembrance of all transgender people who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence².

 

Here are some facts about the issues that affect transgender people in the United States:

  • About 50% of trans teen males, who were assigned female at birth, had attempted suicide at least once¹. About 30% of trans teen females, who were assigned male at birth, at attempted suicide at least³ 
  • 26 states do not have any laws preventing employers from firing someone who is trans
  • At least 22 people who identify as transgender or non-conforming have died this year due to violence ³.

 

While we as a country have made strides creating a safe environment for LGBTQI+ community, there is still a lot of work needed to ensure that everyone feels comfortable both in their personal and professional life.

 

Last June, in honor of Pride Month, we invited Jessica Soukup to speak at the office on how to be LGBTQ+ allies and how we all can make a difference.

 

                                    

Want to make an impact in your school or your community? Contact your local LGBTQ+ non-profit and learn how you can make a difference! Here are a few great resources to help you get started: 

https://www.hrc.org/

https://transequality.org/know-your-rights/schools

https://www.lambdalegal.org/sites/default/files/osr-admin_working-with-transgender-students.pdf

https://www.hrc.org/explore/topic/transgender

https://www.glaad.org/amp/revamp-supporting-your-trans-students

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/trvr_support_center/trans-gender-identity/

 

¹Transgender Day of Remembrance | GLAAD 

²Transgender Day of Remembrance Resource Kit for Journalists | GLAAD 

³Trans teens much more likely to attempt suicide - Reuters 

⁴ http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/non_discrimination_laws

Violence Against the Transgender Community in 2019 | Human Rights Campaign