At the end of the 2005 – 2006 school year I applied to take a course in American history. I hadn’t taken a history class since high school. Since I would be teaching social studies in the fall to a group of special education students, I thought it was time for a course in history. Of course history hasn’t changed; there is just more of it. What has really changed are the methods used to teach history! However, plans changed and I am not teaching social studies this year. Because of the fact that I like history, I decided not to drop out of the course. I am thankful now that I am more prepared to teach history if it becomes part of my job in the future.
In the past, the adopted textbook was what I used to teach social studies. Time did not allow me to expand or add extra materials to instruction. If anything was cut from the curriculum, social studies time was the first to go. This course has shown me that the textbooks barely touch the surface of South Carolina’s history. Many more sources are available to help teach about our past. Primary sources (artifacts, pictures, etc.) are powerful when used in the classroom.
I attended Francis Marion University earning an undergraduate and a master’s degree. I never knew about the hewn-timber cabins. Seeing the cabins and furnishings made me realize how much I had learned from my exposure to this type of living. What I had was a hands-on experience. Being able to put your hands on an object and to experience what it would be like to use that object has more meaning than just reading about it in a book. A field trip to Francis Marion University for third graders to experience living in the time period will be helpful to them in understanding some of the third grade standards.
At the cotton museum I learned how cotton became a part of South Carolina’s history. Being able to see the different processes beginning with the plant and ending with a finished product was interesting. If the students can experience the work put into growing cotton, they will have a better idea of how hard life was for these farmers in South Carolina’s early history. This would be a good field trip to take in the fall and include a visit to a nearby farm to let the students have an experience of picking cotton. Again, first hand experiences are worth more than reading about growing cotton. Experiences create pictures in the mind.
The tobacco museum was a learning experience for me. I had no prior knowledge of tobacco farming until moving here from the upstate. The only tobacco I had ever seen growing was on family trips to North Carolina. No one had ever explained the process of tobacco farming to me in the thirty something years that I have lived in Marion. Learning about the tobacco farms through the tobacco museum helps me to better understand the student’s way of life. I can understand our likes and differences.
The Marlboro County Museum was exciting. Many historical names were tossed about during our tour. The museum had significant places and artifacts that were tied to the Civil War. By visiting the area, not just the museum, it was easy to imagine being a part of the Civil War. The area would be helpful in experiencing life during the Civil War.
All the places included in the course were very well matched to the part of history being taught and discussed. I enjoyed the sites connected to the Civil War time period the most. The periods from 1900 until the present were not as interesting to me. I just happen to like the earlier time periods. However, everything was great!
The speakers were excellent. They presented another way for me to help present the information to the students. If the students are able to role play the historical figures of South Carolina and American history, the information will be easier to recall. If the students participate, the information has more meaning. The information learned will become a part of them.
The master teachers were very helpful with practical information that we could all use in the classroom. Being actual classroom teachers, they were aware of typical classroom situations and problems that might arise. They had tips and ideas that would help us in the classroom on a daily basis. The master teachers were friendly and very willing to share materials, ideas, and their knowledge of various topics. If any area needed to be addressed more, it would be the area of assessment. What are the best ways to assess what they have really learned? Not all students are capable of writing essay answers or even capable of reading a test. More suggestions for assessment methods for differences in abilities would be helpful.
Paul kept the group alive. His information was presented in a manner that kept your attention. He made the class fun and stress free. He allowed time for group interaction. Paul’s knowledge of the material was exceptional. I enjoyed his presentations very much. You can tell that he loves his profession.
In the future, when teaching any subject, I will strive to use more primary sources of information. The students were very successful in the assessments of the lessons presented. They were able to continue conversations on the topic for extended periods of time. Questions were asked freely without fear of asking or saying something wrong. The students seemed to enjoy the lesson more when artifacts and pictures were part of the learning process. I do not have any negative comments at all about the course. I really enjoyed all the different experiences. I will be recommending the course to other teachers in my district. Thanks for all your hard work!