Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ramblings: How I Got Here

I had a really neat conversation with a former student over email over the last couple days. She emailed me to talk about how her year had gone and catch up a bit. She talked a little about her experience in AP US History - it was a positive one, and she felt like all the writing she had to do to prep for the AP test made her a better writer.

I always wondered what I would have done if I had had to teach APUSH. The sheer amount of content you have to plow through, so little room for choice for students over learning things they are interested in: teaching a class within a box like that would have been a challenge, for sure. I’m not sure what I would have done.

But back to the story. I was glad to hear that my former student enjoyed the class. It made me reflect a little bit on my time in APUSH. My APUSH teacher was an incredible man. First and foremost, his class was the second really good history class I had in a row. (Unfortunately, this was my grade 11 and 12 years…) Had I not had those two great experiences in history class, I doubt I would have taken a couple history classes in early college, fallen in love with the subject, and subsequently ended up teaching it.

Second, we kept in touch for a while after I graduated from high school and college. After a couple years in the Peace Corps and a couple of years doing environmental ed, I knew education was for me but I needed to my teacher certification. As I sat down to have lunch with him, we talked about my plan to get my certification and masters. I told him where I was applying. I mentioned I was on the fence about Stanford’s teacher prep program: how would someone with a 3.3 GPA in undergrad get into Stanford? Seemed like a waste of time. In short, he channeled my current favorite writer Shea Serrano and said, “Shoot your shot.” He talked me into applying to Stanford - what was the worst thing that could happen? Well, I got in and spent an amazing decade in the Bay Area because of it.

But the third reflection I had was an interesting one. As I was emailing my student, I recounted why I loved APUSH and this teacher’s strengths: great sense of humor, incredible content knowledge, and

(wait for it)


"Curtis Lecture Hall" by Theonlysilentbob from wikimedia
he was a brilliant lecturer. I remember reading ahead in our textbook to prep for his lectures. I wanted to know the outline of the content of the lecture so I could catch all the little nuggets and salacious information he always peppered his lectures with.

I fell in love with history, thanks in part to a brilliant APUSH teacher. Who lectured. Lectured really well. I don’t really know what any of that means; I do know I wasn’t the only person that really enjoyed his class. It was an interesting realization though: as someone who pushed to have his class as student-centered as possible, it was definitely an interesting memory to have float up to the surface. But without this brilliant teacher - whose class I read ahead in the textbook for to prep for his lectures - none of this (being a history teacher) may have happened.