Last night Bethel hosted the premiere of Prof. Sam Mulberry’s documentary film, Why We Teach, featuring interviews with fifteen recipients of Bethel’s Faculty Excellence Award for Teaching (including Prof. Chris Gehrz). If you couldn’t be there, the full film is now available to stream:
Filmed and edited over the course of Prof. Mulberry’s spring sabbatical, Why We Teach is available at his CWC Radio Filmswebsite. In addition, there you’ll find the original faculty interviews and a searchable database of topical clips. For example, here’s Prof. Gehrz trying out some metaphors for teaching the liberal arts, including a moving story from HIS231L World War II that made the cut for the final draft of the film.
While he’s technically on sabbatical from Bethel, Prof. Sam Mulberry has actually spent most of his spring thinking and talking about Bethel.
For his primary sabbatical project, Sam has been filming interviews with fifteen winners of the Bethel Faculty Excellence Award in Teaching — including 2009 recepient Chris Gehrz. (Sam won the excellence award for service this past August.)
Eventually, those interviews will be available in an online archive, but Sam has also edited them into a documentary film, Why We Teach. If you’d like to see the film’s premiere, come to CC 313 at 7pm on Wednesday, May 23rd. (Earlier that day, Sam will talk about the larger sabbatical project as part of our annual West by Midwest forum on innovation in teaching — 1:30pm in the Bethel Maker Space.)
Meanwhile, enjoy the trailer for Why We Teach, featuring Sara Shady (Philosophy), Dan Ritchie and Joey Horstman (English), Carole Young (Psychology), Ken Steinbach (Art), Leta Frazier (Communication Studies), and Dick Peterson (Physics).
Today we wrap up our three-part alumni conversation on teaching in middle and high school. Thanks once more to our outstanding panelists: Micayla Moore ’16, Kelly Van Wyk ’15, Daniel Rimmereid ’15, Zach Haskins ’14, and Joe Held ’13.
Have you started work on a master’s degree? How did you pick the school and program? At what point in the career would you recommend that teachers go back to school?
JH: Teaching provides financial compensation with attaining a master’s degree. I chose to begin my M.A. rather quickly after starting teaching so as to move along the “Steps and Lanes” as soon as possible. I got my Master’s in Educational Leadership from Concordia University Saint Paul (CSP). I had considered Bethel for a master’s degree, but there is benefit to getting an education from a different school. Multiple perspectives and schools can enrich personal growth.
MM: I just started my master’s in instructional design from Western Governor’s University (WGU). It’s an all online, flexible way to get your master’s. WGU is known for its progressive model of competency-based instead of credit-based education, which means if you can show you’re competent in a topic within the program, you can essentially demonstrate that and move on in the coursework so you don’t waste time and money on
information/skills that you’ve already mastered.
ZH: I started my master’s in educational leadership at St. Mary’s University in the Fall of 2017. I picked the program because it was one that many of my co-workers have gone through, and it is available entirely online. This makes it much easier as a teacher and a coach to be able to get that education.
JH: I chose Concordia’s program for a few reasons. The first being cost. CSP was markedly more affordable than some of the neighboring universities with the same program. The second being the CSP has a reputation for offering pretty rigorous master’s programs. I have many colleagues who received master’s degrees from other universities, and they talk about how they barely had any work. You get out of learning what you put into it. I absolutely love research and paper writing — I know, I’m strange that way — so I wanted a difficult program that would challenge me.
ZH: I would recommend starting your master’s as soon as you feel settled where you are working. I wanted to be at least in my second year at a building before starting. This allows you to adjust to a new school and then tackle your master’s later.
MM: I don’t know that I’d recommend doing it your first year of full-time teaching like I am. (It’s a little stressful!) But I would say do it when you’re younger if you can. I’m only a month or so into it, and it’s already provided immediate benefits to my teaching.
JH: Having completed my M.A. in Educational Leadership, I am now in the middle of getting my Educational Specialist Degree (again, at CSP). This is essentially a step in between a master’s and a doctoral degree (Ed.D). Once I complete this program, I will receive my administration license from the state of Minnesota. This will allow me to pursue becoming a principal down the road if and when I choose.
Any closing advice for current or prospective students thinking about teaching social studies?
MM: Get involved with youth now in whatever capacity possible. Whether that’s tutoring, volunteering with youth groups, after school programs, etc. Spend time with kids. Get to know them. Spend time in different communities with people of different cultures. You can be so solid in content knowledge and your passion for social studies, but if you can’t connect to your students it means nothing.
ZH: Pursue what you love. Everyone knows that teachers do not make the most money, but you can do something that you really enjoy. Take courses that you find interesting and that will challenge you to make yourself a better teacher.
DR: I would say commit to a school for at least three years. That may seem like a long time but I think that after that you will really know if you want to teach and you will give yourself time to grow as a teacher. The third year really is so much better than the previous two. And get a mentor ASAP. Having someone observe me and give feedback bimonthly changed my teaching so much. It truly made me a much better teacher.
KVW: Think about teaching middle school if you can see yourself working with kids who are beginning to develop self-reliance but also are young and highly impressionable. It takes a lot of patience, clear communication, creativity, problem-solving, flexibility, stability, and humor. Most of all, you must be comfortable with teaching students in all areas: academically, socially, emotionally, etc. Do not go into middle school education if you are only comfortable with the academic side of teaching, or you will be miserable and your students will be miserable.
DR: I always want more Bethel grads to try teaching in Minneapolis or St. Paul. We could always use more Christians, and those schools are often short on teachers. There are some awesome staff who have really made their life mission teaching here, and I love my colleagues who have given their life to these kids. They are an inspiration to me daily.
JH: The most challenging aspect of being a teacher is planning for the unexpected. Let me tell you a quick story. A few weeks ago, I went to bed at night expecting to teach the next day about the historical importance of the Berlin Wall. I had a killer lesson plan ready and was feeling good about the next day. When I got to school, the following happened:
Period 1) Found out one of my student’s siblings committed suicide; that student had a breakdown/seizure in class.
Period 2) Unexpected school lock down because a student made a threat to the school on social media.
Period 3) One of my students had the stomach flu and threw up in my garbage can during my lesson.
Period 4) Blessedly, nothing happened so I spent that hour trying to get the smell of vomit out of my room.
Period 5) Caught a student vaping in the back of my class and had to get security to come down because he would leave to go to the office.
Each of these things happened in the middle of my super awesome and killer lesson plan. In fact, none of my classes finished what I was hoping to get done. They were completely distracted and had very little interest in the Berlin Wall. Weird, right?
The perspective I would pass along is to remember three things: 1) You must have a sense of humor to be a teacher. Do not take yourself too seriously. 2) Plan to be flexible. Something unexpected will always happen. The sooner you can find peace with that, the less emotionally traumatic teaching will be for you. 3) Finally, remember why you love to teach. It is, and must be, always about the students. These students are with you everyday for a semester. What impact do you want to have? Remember that some things in life are more important than any lesson plan that you made. Build relationships and continue to cultivate those relationships throughout the year. If you show them that you care for them as individuals, I guarantee that they will begin to find excitement in that content that you are going to be teaching them.
MM: Teaching and learning social studies with young people is worth it. There is such a need for kind, compassionate educators in today’s schools. Students need to be known, loved, nurtured, and challenged, and that’s what you get to do as a teacher.
KVW: Just throwing this out there: you can major in history and find a job outside of social studies education. Don’t feel like education is your only option if you major in the humanities!
Part two of our roundtable conversation on teaching with five recent Bethel Social Studies Ed/History grads. Thanks again to our panelists: Joe Held ’13 (Centennial High School in Lino Lakes); Zach Haskins ’14 (Shakopee High School); Kelly Van Wyk ’15 (MOC-Floyd Valley Schools in Alton, IA); Daniel Rimmereid ’15 (Franklin Middle School in North Minneapolis); and Micayla Moore ’16 (Minnetonka Middle School West in Excelsior).
What’s the most important thing about teaching that you learned at Bethel (whether from an Ed class or in the History department)? What have you had to learn on the job?
MM: First, from Amy Poppinga’s course History and the Human Environment I learned how to engage learners using a variety of instructional strategies. I always say I learned as much (or more) about how to teach just from being Poppinga’s student than I did in most of my education classes. Second, from AnneMarie Kooistra I learned how to support and challenge students. As her TA, I had the privilege of watching her build meaningful relationships with a wide open door policy. She has an amazing ability to make you feel valued and heard, no matter if you’re a business major just trying to pass American Civ. or a history nerd who wants to be her someday. She is so good at caring for her students and giving them what they need, whether that’s a challenge or accommodation.
DR: I have left deeply valuing my history professors’ and classes’ impact on my view of the world and, specific to my job, how I view and think about race. I work in a predominantly black school and the other portions are also students of color. History opened up my eyes to the history of race in America and how that impacts so much of life today. I cannot begin to teach if I first do not learn from my students and I think studying history has really helped me start there.
JH: The most important thing that I learned about teaching was to view students holistically. Many teachers take students’ actions (or even a poorly written assignment) as a personal attack. This type of understanding will burn you out quickly as an educator. Remember that in a class of 35+, you will have some students with no home, some who have been abused, some who are incredibly smart, and some who have special needs. Bethel taught me that I need to keep my students’ mental, physical, and emotional health in mind just as much as I do academic achievements.
ZH: The most important thing I learned was to be prepared to be a diverse educator. I mean this in the sense that you will never know what type of school you will work in and you need to make sure that you are effectively teaching students from all backgrounds and walks of life. I have worked in three districts that are very different from each other. The diversity of those schools can make a difference in how you teach. An educator must be prepared in how to effectively work with students from various backgrounds.
DR: Education classes did not prepare me for teaching in such a diverse setting. I did not have the classroom management tools; I was in culture shock and had to fight really hard in college to get diverse placements. Once I got here I asked lots of questions, especially to my colleagues of color. I asked many people to observe me, and I really did observe others. This helped to raise me expectations for my students. I think the most helpful thing I have learned after three years is that you cannot have high academic expectations without high behavior expectations for your students.
KVW: The thing I have had to learn on the job is that you will be bad when you start teaching. You will be an objectively terrible teacher. So collaborate with the pros: experience teachers who have been through the same things you are experiencing now. Listen before jumping in to speak. And take each day at a time with this goal in mind: what am I going to improve for tomorrow?
ZH: One thing that I have had to learn on the job is that, as a new teacher, you will always feel like you have more to do to be prepared. Being a new teacher is difficult and there never seems to be enough time. As long as you have the students interest at heart, you will be effective. Know that the profession will get easier in time!
How (and how quickly) did you get your current position? Was it difficult finding a full-time teaching job? (If you’re not teaching social studies, how/why did you switch?)
ZH: The job market is difficult for social studies. I applied to countless jobs the first three summers out of college. My first year out I got a long-term sub job, my second year out I was a part time teacher. Finally, by the third year I was able to get hired full-time at Shakopee High School. There are so many people that apply to every social studies teaching position listed that it gets very difficult to even get an interview.
JH: I student taught at Centennial High School during my senior year at Bethel. I treated this experience as 4-month “interview/audition.” Even though it didn’t appear that there would be any openings at CHS, I wanted to put in 110%. Following graduation, I taught for one year at Minnesota Virtual High School as an online teacher. Fortunately, I got a call from the SS Department Chair at Centennial saying that they would like me to apply for a job. I’ve never looked back.
ZH: The key is to make connections to schools and districts and stay in contact with them. Every interview I received was because I had made a connection with another person within the district. It was a challenging process, but you just have to keep with it and keep your head up. Talk to administrators of schools when you do your student teaching or observations, coach at schools, help out, and do anything to get yourself noticed. This can definitely help you in the job search.
KVW: I really had to work hard to find connections with the school districts to which I applied. The teaching market was flooded with applicants when I graduated, so I had to expand my search beyond the Twin Cities to find an opening. I got my job in June after I graduated, and I felt very lucky to have found a full-time position.
MM: Minnetonka recruited me right out of college and offered me a job in spring 2016. Instead, I said yes to a charter school in Minneapolis. That charter school ended up unexpectedly closing a week before school started in 2016-2017, so I was suddenly unemployed. But the Lord is so so faithful and knows exactly what He’s doing even when we are clueless. So I spent last year subbing all over the metro and then working in Costa Rica for three months at an orphanage. I decided to apply with Minnetonka again. I reached out to some people I had met the year before, had my interview, and accepted the job two days after I returned from Costa Rica in June. The second time around, it was the right fit.
KVW: The entire search took a lot more patience and persistence than I anticipated for sure, which was a really valuable lesson for me right out of college.
DR: Cast your nets wide. That may look like another state, abroad, or even a district you didn’t plan on teaching at. I would recommend really thinking about teaching abroad. Some countries have awesome programs that pay more than teaching in the US.
What’s the best part of your current job?
DR: I love seeing students grow and building relationships with them. I would also say I have learned so much about North Minneapolis, poverty, and the challenges that come with being a person of color in America.
KVW: The relationships that I have with my students and athletes are definitely the best part of my job. Research shows that one of the best indicators of student success is the presence of a caring, supportive adult in their lives. I love that I get to do that for my kids, and I wake up every day feeling like my efforts matter and make a difference in the lives of those I teach. I help kids feel heard, develop confidence and grit, and show them opportunities and ways of life that they are experiencing for the very first time. That sort of thing doesn’t get old.
MM: The best part of my job are undoubtedly my students. They are hilarious and teach me so much every single day. They’re patient and kind and I’m so proud of who they’re becoming.
JH: The best part of teaching senior classes (many of them being AP students) is when they stay in touch as they go off to college. I have many students go on to get business/economic degrees and will email/visit me to get help on their college assignments. It is incredibly rewarding when students want to keep you a part of their life as they move on. I take it as an honor to be a part of their learning process and their journey.
ZH: The best and most surprising aspects of my current job has been the ability to design new courses. I was asked to design a Criminal Justice course for Shakopee High School, and then teach that course this year. It has been a really cool process of building a course from the ground up and then watching it get implemented where you work.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?
ZH: The most challenging aspect of the job has been the first year at the new building. Whenever you are in your first year at a new building, you feel like you are swamped. Getting adjusted to new curriculum, a new school and new co-workers is difficult. As you get more experience in a building and with the curriculum, it gets easier and manageable. You can switch from survival mode to design and enjoy mode!
JH: A challenging aspect is learning to balance your life and your job. Teaching can be emotionally all-consuming. It took a few years for me to finally be able to not spend hours (unpaid, of course) every night and weekend preparing for the next lesson and unit. Eventually you learn to triage your work life. There is no substitute for experience when it comes to becoming efficient in your teaching career.
DR: I would say the hardest part of teaching where I teach is teaching students in poverty, high concentrations of underperforming students and underfunded districts and schools that service these students.
MM: The most challenging aspect in my job is the immersion context and writing quality curriculum for a developing program. Finding primary sources in Spanish to use for a 7th grade U.S. history course can be challenging!
KVW: On the other side of the coin, there are a lot of challenges in education. Being a social studies teacher, my subject tends to draw out a lot of the controversial issues in current affairs. As both a Christian and a professional educator, I am constantly seeking wisdom in how to broach these hard topics in a balanced manner: one that seeks truth and integrity yet compassionately considers the variety of perspectives involved.
DR: I will also be honest, the behavior will take a while to learn how to manage.
KVW: Not to mention that there are some days when no matter how hard you try, your students are just not that excited to receive an education. That’s why it’s so important to have a co-worker you can share your struggles with from time to time. And I can also attest to the power of having a chocolate stash somewhere in your desk for bad days.
One of the historic strengths of our department has been preparing middle and high school social studies teachers — both through the multidisciplinary Social Studies Ed 5-12 major that we coordinate with the Education department and through our own History programs. (Here’s a current map of teaching placements.) To get an inside view of that kind of career, we asked five recent grads teaching in middle and high schools (urban, rural, and suburban) to reflect on their time at Bethel and their path to the classroom. This is the first in a three-part series.
Why did you major in Social Studies Education 5-12? Is that what you planned to do when you came to Bethel?
Micayla Moore ’16 (Minnetonka Middle School West – Excelsior, MN): I came into Bethel planning on the Social Studies Ed major, but I always say I finished my teaching degree for different reasons than I started it. My mom was a social studies teacher and I had always loved the subject and teaching others. (They had me pegged when my classmates voted me most likely to return to Hutchinson High School as a teacher.) But I really decided to stick with social studies ed when I realized, around my sophomore year, the impact of education as a vehicle for social change. I saw the power that solid education and good teachers can have in improving individual lives, families, and communities.
Kelly Van Wyk ’15 (MOC-Floyd Valley Community Schools – Alton, IA): When I first came to Bethel, I definitely had not planned on majoring in education, but the Lord has a sense of humor. When psychology and sociology proved to be ill-fitting, I switched to history simply because I had always loved the material and figured that it would be at least an interesting use of my time. Eventually, I picked up a few education courses to try out the major and after my first few field experiences with middle schoolers, my course was set.
Daniel Rimmereid ’15 (Franklin Middle School – Minneapolis, MN): Halfway through my college experience I realized that I cared deeply about education and believed in its power to impact and effect change. I also loved the humanities and wanted to continue talking about them with students and passing that love onto them.
For those of you who have worked in middle schools… what drew you to that age?
KVW: The students were what hooked me. One of my passions is mentoring youth and the fact that middle level education is all about developing the whole person showed me that I absolutely love working with middle-schoolers. Many of my field experiences were with middle schoolers and I always enjoyed their enthusiasm and genuineness. Most high schoolers develop an edge and guardedness which makes them really skeptical of anything “over the top” in their book. My sixth-graders look at something that is “over the top” (e.g. dunking their social studies teacher in a dunk tank) and still think it’s socially acceptable to enjoy it. Emphatically.
MM: I always saw myself in a high school setting. I remember distinctly praying in my Intro to Education course, “Lord, please don’t send me to a middle school” for my placement, and I of course went to middle schools for every placement until student teaching. So I didn’t see myself in middle school, but I slowly warmed up to the idea. Now, I enjoy it and see it as a great fit for my personality and life stage.
Zach Haskins ’14 (Shakopee High School – Shakopee, MN): I taught middle school the first two years out of college. The funny part is that while at Bethel I told myself I would never teach at a middle school. However, I really enjoyed teaching middle school students. You should think about teaching middle school if you are quirky and like to nerd out about history stuff in class. Middle school students have an appreciation for quirkiness and they can be more enthusiastic than high schoolers about things they learn. Yes, they do have more energy, but when it is channeled the right way it can make for an awesome job.
MM: You should think about teaching middle school if you’re energetic, creative, and like a challenge.
DR: You should think about teaching middle school if you want to laugh everyday, have a thick skin, and are really sarcastic. They are funny and you will be very entertained. I am also frequently blown away by how they think about the world and how smart they are. I did not expect it, but enjoy parts of it.
All of you added a second major in History. What’s proven to be the most important benefit of double-majoring? Why should Social Studies Ed students do the extra work to complete the History major?
Joe Held ’13 (Centennial High School – Lino Lakes, MN): I have had colleagues who teach history and only had one or two intro-level courses in college. By majoring in history you are building your content repertoire. This will be beneficial to your students and you will need to spend less time relearning things when you get hired.
ZH: A major in history sets a social studies teacher up well to be knowledgeable in their content areas. In my first year at Shakopee High School I was assigned to teach AP US History, which is a tough course to teach. I felt much more comfortable because I had taken 21 credits worth of US History courses during my time at Bethel. If you are just a Social Studies Education major you get introduced to the various topics in social studies, but you will not dive in to the topics as much as you will when you have that second major. It also was a big help when I took the MTLE tests that allow graduates to get their teaching licenses. The MTLE tests that focus on content are difficult to pass, but the History major definitely made it more manageable. I would definitely encourage anyone to double major because it is not take that many more credits and it will help you to stand out when applying to jobs.
MM: The reading, writing, and research skills I learned in my history major, as well as the added content knowledge of U.S. history, have proven to be invaluable in my work as a teacher. I am a better investigator of sources and quality curriculum to use in my class. I am a better reading and writing coach. I am better at facilitating critical conversation around history and students’ perceptions.
KVW: My history major was invaluable. I honestly believe I would not be able to do my job without the critical thinking skills I fostered through studying history. Abilities such as recognizing various historical perspectives, wrestling with complexity on issues you wish were black and white, close-reading strategies of various sources, and taking informed action based on textual evidence (just to name a few) are all skills that serve me as an educator; especially now that Iowa has just recently re-written our social studies standards at all levels with an emphasis on these very skills.
JH: More importantly, majoring in History makes you more marketable. If you are applying for a Global Politics or World History position, schools are far more excited about an applicant who can say they took numerous courses on Middle East/Islamic history. It sets you apart from other candidates.
ZH: Definitely get a second major (like History) to make yourself more marketable in the job search.
JH: But for my part, the most beneficial aspect of majoring in History was in shaping my perception of the importance of history. Teaching is so much more than conveying information. It is about igniting an interest in learning itself. My History major, more than anything else, taught me that history gives you power to understand how world events were, are, and will be connected.
MM: Most importantly, my history degree informed my worldview and helped me realize the importance of considering historical narratives and using a variety of sources and perspectives when studying history. These two concepts are fundamental in each course that I teach.
KVW: Not only does this education benefit me professionally, but also on a more personal level. I feel like studying history has equipped me to be a better American citizen, a better informed contributor to the community in which I live, and a more studious Christian. Yes, I would definitely major in both history and social studies education again in a heartbeat.
Prof. Amy Poppinga recently published an article with Interfaith Youth Core’s INTER site. It starts with her taking Bethel students to a local mosque to observe worship and then share a meal. While the evening provoked some difficult conversation about theological differences, she found that the awkwardness actually led to considerable learning among her students:
There was agreement that the last hour of the evening had, indeed, been uncomfortable. While they were certainly taking that discomfort seriously, a few days of distance allowed them to laugh about the awkwardness of the encounter and consider it from different angles.
Students spoke about the need to not be defensive but rather to be okay with operating from a posture of learning. One commented that he could only imagine what it would be like to have the tables turned, and to be a Muslim listening to a Christian defend their theology in contrast to Islam. “I’m sure that happens a whole lot more often than what happened to us,” he remarked. A few students then began to discuss their own struggles with aspects of Christian theology, and an almost confessional atmosphere was created as some expressed the difficulty of articulating faith and truth claims.
This fall the Conference and Faith and History (CFH) will be celebrating its 50th anniversary as it holds its biennial conference (Calvin College, Oct. 4-6). One of the oldest Christian academic societies in North America, CFH describes itself as “a community of scholars exploring the relationship between Christian faith and history” and primarily aspires “to encourage excellence in the theory and practice of history from the perspective of historic Christianity.” Bethel has long had faculty participate in CFH, with Prof. Gehrz currently serving on the group’s executive board.
While most CFH members are college and university professors and graduate students, we want to echo program chair John Fea’s invitation for middle and high school teachers to consider attending the conference. The schedule is still taking shape, but John reports that there will be a special session just on the role of secondary school teachers in CFH, and that several such educators have already proposed papers. Plus it’s a chance to engage in some continuing education as you hear papers and talks from leading scholars in a variety of fields (not just church/religious history). We’ll share the full schedule once it’s set, but the list of plenary speakers includes Margaret Bendroth (author of The Spiritual Practice of Remembering) and Robert Orsi (History and Presence).
Oh, and you’d have the chance to spend a few days with Bethel faculty: Profs. Gehrz, Goldberg, and Poppinga have all proposed papers or sessions for this year’s meeting.
Earlier this spring Prof. Chris Gehrz joined two other winners of Bethel’s Faculty Excellence Award in Teaching to reflect on “habits of the mind” for effective teachers. While Joey Horstman (English) took noticing and Sara Shady (Philosophy) reflected on persisting, Prof. Gehrz described teaching as an act of wondering. You can watch that presentation here:
Greetings all! I am glad to have the opportunity to introduce my digital self to the readers of AC 2nd. I am Charlie Goldberg, and the calendar informs me that we are somehow two months into my first semester as a professor of History here at Bethel. My first weeks have been exciting, often hectic, but incredibly rewarding. As I’m sure you can all relate from intense stretches of newness in your own lives, the life of a first-year professor can sometimes feel like racing from one crisis to the next. Even on the busiest of days, though, it’s easy to bring to mind the many enriching conversations I’ve had with students, faculty, and others here at Bethel, each one a reminder of just how lucky I am to pursue my passion for cultivating a deeper understanding of the past in young people.
Today, I’d like to contribute to “The Things They Carried” Series, introduced by my colleague Sam Mulberry, where we history professors document the material “stuff” that makes our job possible. Below, I’ve chosen a few items that are representative of my first several weeks here. Some pertain to my research, and some to my teaching, but in whatever way, they create a mosaic of the odyssey of a first year professor of History.
1. Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe. This was a recent gift to me from my wife, Rachel. I was having “one of those weeks” where, for whatever reason, nothing seemed to be going right. This was her way of helping me remember that one of my gifts, and indeed the core of my job, is in “explaining things.” After reading the first few pages, I became fascinated by Munroe’s project, which is to illuminate complicated scientific processes by using only the thousand most common words in the English language. So, for example, instead of a “nuclear missile,” Munroe describes a “machine for burning cities.” Instead of a “cockpit,” we read about “stuff you touch to fly a sky boat.” As part of my duties here at Bethel, I am in the midst of proposing a new major in the Digital Humanities, which (among other aims) hopes to deliver some marketable, high-tech skills to Humanities students. As anyone learning how to use new technology can attest, though, it’s very easy to get bogged down in complicated jargon, which only impedes learning. Munroe’s book is therefore a good exercise in the importance of simplicity and economy of words.
2. Digital Humanities Proposal 4.2. When I was hired to propose our new DH major, I was lucky enough to count on the tireless work that others in our department and around campus had put into this new venture, perhaps most notably Professor Chris Gehrz. In the past weeks, various committees around campus have discussed the new major, and this proposal has become my handbook to explaining our vision for the major, and what we hope it will provide for our students.
3. CWC Reading Packet. Most semesters, I will teach Christianity and Western Culture, which probably needs no introduction for our readers. When I was writing my dissertation at Syracuse University, I was laser-focused on all things ancient Rome. It has been such a breath of fresh air to teach CWC because of its goal of connecting the entire swath of western history through the centuries. It is reminder of the power of the past to speak to us across the abyss of time.
4. Roman Power. A common refrain I heard as I finished up my doctorate, moved across the country, and began to teach here at Bethel, was how difficult it is for a new professor to find time for research during their first year. Lesson plans need to be written, syllabi designed, and university procedures learned. I count myself lucky on the rare occasion to have even an hour or two in the week to read an article in my field of ancient history. But as a professor, remaining connected to our individual areas of expertise is important. Because writing a book review is a relatively small burden that even I can hope to complete, I’ve committed to reviewing William Harris’ Roman Power in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review. I may not be able to finish up the article I’ve hoped to complete this year, but reviewing Harris’ book will allow me to remain connected to important conversations in Roman history.
5. American Quarter. I had high hopes of this being a photo of a Roman denarius, but unfortunately it has not arrived in the mail yet. But this is my way of announcing an exciting project I am designing for HIS311 Roman Civilization for next Spring. I have procured a few dozen Roman coins, fresh from an archaeological dig in Europe. Next semester, my students and I will clean, catalog, and identify each coin, and then bring them to interested readers via the Bethel Coin Project, which will present our findings online. It will serve as my first attempt at incorporating DH tools in my own classroom here at Bethel.
6. Field Notes. Despite my need to live and work “in the digital world,” I’m still rather “analog” at heart. Perhaps it’s the classicist in me. For example, I typically carry this trusty notebook wherever I go, be it to class, a meeting, or back to my office to lesson plan. As our world becomes increasingly digitized, It’s important to remember that we remain, to put it crudely, meat bags, with earthly instincts and sentiments. Sometimes nothing helps me gather my thoughts quite like writing them out by hand.
“The Things They Carried” is not only the title of a short story collection by Tim O’Brien but also series of articles in Foreign Policy Magazine. In these articles, a writer at Foreign Policy profiles a person with a unique job in the world of international relations by creating a photo spread of the items that they carry with them as they perform their duties. This series was pointed out to my by my colleague in the Political Science department Chris Moore. It seemed like an interesting way to use physical objects to tell a a person’s story and to profile who they are and the job they do. He challenged me to create a similar series on our departmental blog to highlight the people in my department and the work that they do. I agreed. As a guinea pig to test how this would work, I started with myself. Among other things, I am one of the people who teach Bethel’s Christianity and Western Culture (CWC) course. These are the things that I carry to when I go to give a lecture.
1. Paper Box Lid – I am often seen walking around campus caring the lid to a paper box filled with the items I need for class or meetings. People who see my at a distance think that I’m carrying a pizza or a box of doughnuts. I end up disappointing them with the in-edibility of the items that are actually in the box. In my office I have a stack of eight extra boxes for when my current box begins to break down.
2. Class Announcements – One of my jobs in CWC is to coordinate the team of Teaching Assistants(TAs) for the class. At the beginning of each lecture one of the TAs reads the announcements to the class. This is both to let students know about upcoming events and to get the TAs comfortable speaking in front of 130 students.
3. Lecture Notes – When I first started lecturing in CWC, I would write out the text of my whole lecture. Now I’ve moved to starting my lectures by building my PowerPoint and then writing out my lecture talking points on a printout of my slides. My goal is to not have to make reference to my notes while I’m giving a lecture, but it is always helpful to have them with me when my mind inevitably goes blank.
4. Zoom Audio Recorder – For about a decade I have been audio recording CWC lectures – both the lectures give and those given by my colleagues. We use these lecture recordings to help orient new faculty to the course as they are writing new lectures. I also listen to a recording of my lecture from the previous semester in morning before class to help me review the content that I need to cover.
5. Printouts of PowerPoint Slides – It is part of my job to manage disability accommodations for the students in CWC. I bring printouts of the PowerPoints to give to the students who require this as part of their accommodations.
6. Dry Erase Makers – When CC313 – the lecture hall where CWC is taught – was remodeled in the summer of 2015, the chalkboards were removed and replaced with whiteboards. I am not a huge fan of whiteboards largely because I have anxiety about the markers dying on my in the middle of class. For this reason I bring a box of black dry erase markers for specific CWC use in CC313. I put blue tape on the ends of the markers to label them as CWC markers. The ones that are bundled in the rubber band and brand new, while the un-bundled markers have been used. Once a marker starts to fade, it needs to be recycled.
7. Diet Mountain Dew – I am both addicted to caffeine and not a fan of coffee. So Diet Mountain Dew is pretty ever-present as my caffeine deliver system.
8. iPod Touch – I don’t own a cell phone, but my iPod Touch is a necessary piece of my daily routine. I rely on in for e-mail, texting, and as my timepiece. I don’t listen to music much, but I do listen to lots of podcasts. I also use by iPod to listen to recordings of my old lectures in order to prepare for future classes.
9. Keys – My keys are actually an important item to have in class, because inevitably I will forget to bring something to class and will need to run back to my office at the last minute. There are more keys on this key ring than are necessary. I actually only know what four of these keys are for. I’m not even sure where the others came from, but I’ve carried them around for over a decade.
10. “To Do” List – Every morning I start my day by writing a “To Do” list. It includes all of my daily appointments and all of the tasks that I need to complete. I carry it with me throughout the day and check off tasks as they are accomplished. I’m pretty certain I’d me unable to do my job without this regular routine.
11. Pens – I am never without a number of pens, and most of them are green. I do all of my grading in green pen and ask the my TAs do so as well. This was something that I inherited from my mentor and predecessor Virginia Lettinga.
12. Clicker – I move around quite a bit when I teach and I use a significant number of timings and animations in my PowerPoints. Having a clicker keeps me from being tethered to my laptop. I got my first clicker as a gift from Mike Holmes. Although that clicker eventually broke, I still carry keep it in my computer bag because a gift from Mike Holmes is pretty cool.
13. Laptop Computer – I typically bring my computer to class and hook it up to the classroom projector. I do this because I’m kind of picky about my PowerPoints and I like to use specific not standard fonts at times. If I run the slideshow off my my computer, then I feel more confident that everything will work. I also use my computer as a portable podcast and movie studio for other aspects of my job.