Today I had the privilege of talking with eight groups of twenty 8th graders at Alvin Junior High School.
My day was a blast!
These students were curious and have a love of life far too many adults have lost. They were eager and fully innocent of all the things that stress far too many adults. They wanted to be marine biologists, surgeons, veterinarians, pilots, engineers, and many, many other things!
I used my typical very interactive teaching style. I asked these students, “What do you want to be?,” “What do you think a history professor does?,” and “How do you think you become a professor?” They already knew parts of the answers to all of these! I showed them my MA thesis around this point. I also used this as an opportunity to talk about how I teach and to talk about the skills of strong students and to share all the other things a history professor does besides teaching.
I passed around some old BlueBooks exams from former students for them to look at. I said this was a three hour test, how many questions do you think it had? They initially said “200” or “500” and other lively responses. When I told them the test had two questions, they were shocked, as I expected! But, then I used this to talk about how you always learn and grow and improve and that when you get to college it will be a piece of cake if you study.
In some of the sessions we had time to analyze a primary source. We looked at a photograph from the Great Depression. I passed copies of it around to the students and had them analyze it (based off various questions on my master list), and they did a great job – better than some college students! In particular, we talked about how various people would respond to the photograph.
In some of the sessions we talked about various definitions of “history” and how that anything and everything is history. When I asked them “how long ago does something have to be before it’s called history?,” I was delighted that in each group before I even said anything, they said “yesterday!” and “five minutes ago!”
We talked about the advantage of starting at a community college, too, and how dual credit can provide important opportunities.
They had so many wonderful questions, too. I wish I could remember all of them. At one point one of them asked what my favorite TV show was and thought it was “awesome” that I didn’t even have a TV!
I also had some really great conversations with other presenters at career day and faculty/staff members at AJHS. AND, a really neat and unexpected thing happened when I ran into Mrs. Setzer (our picture below), who was my social studies and science teacher in fifth grade at Polk Elementary in the 1998-1999 school year.