Tuesday, May 01, 2007

When literature supports history

One of the things that I get excited about is when I find (almost all by myself) some kind of obscure piece of literature to support history.

Case in point: I have been preparing the humanities lesson that I have to teach to a Modern European History class of 11th graders tomorrow. Two parts of any history lesson for me is to pay particular attention to the vocabulary and to find literature that is a living example of the historical time.

My assigned lesson topic is "The Industrial Revolution." Massive and broad. Since the specifics of the lesson are left up to me, I've whittled it down to "The Industrial Revolution: The Transformation of Human Culture." Still a massive topic, but consider this an introduction.

In my quest, I found William Wordsworth's poem "The Excursion." Read these lines as Wordsworth expresses his unhappiness with the effects of industry.

“Meanwhile, at social Industry's command
How quick, how vast an increase. From the germ
Of some poor hamlet, rapidly produced
Here a huge town, continuous and compact
Hiding the face of earth for leagues - and there,
Where not a habitation stood before,
Abodes of men irregularly massed
Like trees in forests, - spread through spacious tracts.

"O'er which the smoke of unremitting fires
Hangs permanent, and plentiful as wreaths
Of vapour glittering in the morning sun.
And, wheresoe'er the traveller turns his steps
He sees the barren wilderness erased,
Or disappearing...”
Now doesn't that sound like the same thoughts behind current day reaction to urban sprawl?

I have really enjoyed getting this lesson together. If I had my own class and was covering the Industrial Revolution, I really think I would spend about six weeks on it. It is such a pivotal beginning. An explosion, more or less. It is a good study in cause and effect and chain of events.

I feel confident about the lesson. I've prepared a handout with an anticipation guide first, followed by a notesheet for 2 - column notes. Even though this is not a real class and I should not expect the students to do my homework assignment, I felt like I had to act like it was my class and prepare just that way. How else will my observers know how I would conduct a class? I think teaching is class involves much more than the 45 minutes I spend in front of the students.

So, on the back of the handout, I have a map and questions and two short essay questions that I would require as homework.

I've timed myself, realizing that it will likely be longer especially if I get some good discussion going on like I'd like. If there is time left, the map exercise will be good material to use for group discussion.

Besides this 45 minute class, I will be interviewing with at least two people for five hours, minus a 30 minute lunch. That's a pretty good interview, I think.

I have no idea what the conversation will be like or about, but I hope it focuses more on teaching the trivium than content learning. What I mean is this: content learning is important. After all, that is THE material we are giving the students. But the way we impart it often determines the effectiveness of its implantation. Without proper cultivation, the content, the seed, will likely wash away. It is my firm belief that teaching the trivium classically is proper cultivation and fertilization of the students' mind. No matter the content, whatever the topic is, the cultivation and fertilization is the most important. The content can be accessed and imparted by any teacher will to take the time to dig it out, sift through and find the gems, and then transplant. Do you know what I mean?

I am not nervous at all. And I really don't expect to be. I get excited about my subject and get really involved with it. I guess my worst "fear" is that I won't scratch their itch. I do think I have a lot to offer and hope to be able to present that in a kind and gentle way. I hope to excite the students about this particular bit of history. If I can, I've done my job.

And I hope that means I get the job!

Prayers for clarity of mind and clearness of speech are still need!


Anonymous said...


You might be interested in this lecture given by C. S. Lewis that addresses this very topic


The 6th paragraph from the bottom is the key to the lecture.

Jenny in MO

Kathleen Hamilton said...

Janie, I want to take a class from you! I will be praying for you today.

Dana said...

Best of luck to you!! I will be praying for you.

desert mom said...

This is the kind of lesson I dream of creating. I look forward to hearing how it went. You are a wonderful teacher and this school would be privledged to have you teaching for them.

Carol in Oregon said...

I didn't read this until Wednesday evening, but I have been praying off and on all day. Count me with Kathleen: I'd L-O-V-E to take a class from you. I know that you would be the kind of teacher that demanded and got the very best out of me.

I can't wait to hear how it went...

Seasonal Soundings said...

Oh, ya'll are so sweet! I wish you all were my interviewing committee!

I've got a town trip today and Toastmasters, so afterwords I plan to blog about yesterday. I really want this job. And I will be so disappointed if I don't get it. So, please continue to pray that everyone concerned (read this as Janie)will be accepting of who God puts in that position. I need patience. I want it so bad that every time I think about teaching these classes my heart speeds up and I get that fluttery feeling inside, much akin to that teenage infatuation-flutter. I've got to stop thinking about this even right now or my heart will get overworked! Please do continue to pray that God puts me in that teaching position. More later, I promise! Probably much more than you want to read. ;)

Thank you, Jenny, for the article. I love adding stuff like this to my resources!

Pamela said...

You would have loved my American Civilization class at Whittier College in the late 1960s (so I'm showing my age). Our textbook was Main Currents in American Thought by VL Parrington. It was history as evidenced by the great literary and intellectual movements and individuals of the era. It won the Pulitzer for historical writing in 1928. He was a professor at University of Washington.