New State, New Job, New Life basically.

So, I promised to write more this summer in amongst all of my travels.  But then…

Those travels happened….

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City

Then we bought a house…

Miss Frances, unsure of all this.

Miss Frances, unsure of all this.

And then we moved to South Carolina, the Palmetto State.

State Motto: “Dum Spiro Spero” – While I breathe, I hope.

State fruit: The Peach;  State Dance: The Shag; State Beverage: Milk.

Where Spanish Moss hangs from Live Oaks, the liquor stores close at 7pm, people run red lights with abandon, and almost everyone (local) smiles and waves at everyone else.

We live in this adorable little town

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Which is about 15 miles from the Atlantic Ocean and the beaches.

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So what else is going on?

I went to Salt Lake City to grade the AP Exams, which was as fun and fabulous as ever.  Sure, I had to read thousands of high school essays, but I also got to see a great group of friends that I reconnect with every June. We also went up into the Wasatch Mountains, which is always beautiful. Unfortunately, the Mormon Museum was closed for renovations.  Next year, or the year after, I will definitely be visiting.

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With other history educators at Silver Lake, Utah

Mostly I’ve been settling into the new house and state.  My family came to visit and we spent a week or two touristing.  We visited Medieval Times (of course), Charleston, and so much more.  And of course, beach time.

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Touristing in Charleston, SC

My biggest news is this:  Starting on Monday, I will be teaching Public History and History to the students of Coastal Carolina University!  I’m so excited to be back in an academic atmosphere, and I’m honored to have this opportunity.  The campus is beautiful.

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And our mascot is Chauncey, a Chanticleer (information on how that came about here).

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For now, I’m getting back into the swing of syllabi and schedules, and enjoying every moment.  I can’t wait to have the opportunity to think and discuss Public History and current issues with students.  Look for more posts on that soon.

And as I’m constantly pining for Ireland, those updates will appear someday as well.

Where have I been? Well, let me tell you ALL about teaching Public History…

I can say with all honesty that teaching public history is the single most rewarding, educational, and fun experience I have had in my time as a PhD student at MTSU.  Sure, studying abroad in Toronto was incredible and I got some great field work experience and great portfolio builders, classwork and time spent with my fellow graduate students is educational and fun, and it goes without saying that conferences provide some of the best networking opportunities, learning experiences from other professionals, and titillating giveaway contests in the hospitality suite.  Teaching World Civilizations I was also a great experience, and imparting my knowledge of Ancient History to unsuspecting undergraduates was a learning experience for me as well as my students.

However, there is just something about teaching students who CARE about the subject, are passionate about public history, learning, and just the field in general that makes me look forward to teaching, planning, and going to class every week.

Here is some background information….

As a PhD Resident I was posed with the task of finding a residency that would fulfill the requirements of the department and also provide me with professional public history work that will inform my dissertation and eventually my career.  I struggled and thought, schemed and fought – but I did NOT want to teach.  I wanted to be “in the field.”  In my time as a Masters student in Memphis, I was given the opportunity to work in a museum for my assistantship while also holding two other museum jobs – I missed working in those institutions directly with the public on a daily basis.  Hello!  PUBLIC historian!  As things began to fell in to place, it seemed that teaching was going to be the best bet for me.  I wasn’t convinced, because, hey – I want to be a public historian, not a teacher.

I had no idea what I was getting myself in to.

I have talked several times about teaching World Civilizations on this blog.  I knew preparing for that class what my audience would be; generally students who take World Civilizations come from all colleges of the university and are not super enthused about history or taking a course about ancient, classical, and post-classical civilizations.  I hope that in teaching that class I did make a difference to some students and get at least a few interested in the subject.

True story.

Coming in to the Spring semester, I knew that the students in Explorations in Public History would be a completely different audience.  For one thing, the course is a 3000 level course, which means that many upper-division students are enrolled and also that many of my students are history majors.  History majors have to love history, at least to some extent, right?

So what is this class I’m teaching?

Explorations in Public History is a course that basically serves as an introduction to the field of Public History for undergraduate students.  In preparing for the class I knew that the first question most students, and people in general, would have is, what is this public history that you speak of?  In writing this, I realize that perhaps this is something that I haven’t even really addressed on this blog.  So let me explain to you, my readers, how I’m going about teaching this class.

The course meets twice a week, so each week I am presenting a different topic relate to Public History.  The topics we are covering in class include: What is public history? Who owns history?  Bias and POV, Audiences, Archaeology, Material Culture, Archives, Historic Preservation, Oral History, Cultural Resource Management, Historic Memory, Museums, Education, Public Programming, Exhibits, History in Unexpected Places, Popular Culture, Environmental Protection, National Parks, Media & Technology, jobs & Opportunities, Professional Development, Issues & Problems.

A relevant Ryan Gosling Meme

This is a TON of material.  Some of these topics are combined, many overlap, and all are related in some way to the larger themes of the course and the public history program.   Essentially, each week my students are assigned readings that relate to the week’s topic.  For instance, the first topic was “What is Public History, and Who, if anyone OWNS the Past?”  My students read the National Council on Public History Website article, What is Public History? (http://ncph.org/cms/what-is-public-history/).  They also looked at James Cuno’s introduction to the book Who Owns Antiquity.

We had in class discussions about the readings, and we also explored other questions in discussions such as: What are some of the definitions of public history?  How do YOU define public history?  What is your favorite part of public history? If you don’t have one yet, what are you most interested in learning about? What do you expect to learn in this class? Who owns the past?  What are some issues involved in believing someone can own the past? Can anyone own the past? What problems might historians, especially public historians have because of the idea that the past can belong to someone?

Additionally, I opened a forum on D2L for students to post responses to specific discussion questions so that they could interact virtually.

Not my students (most days... that I notice..)

The first day of class I was extremely pleased to find that I had a class that would actually talk to me. Intelligently!  With thought-out answers and questions! What a change from a group of general education students who aren’t necessarily interested in learning the finer details of Egyptian history or ancient Chinese civilizations. The discussions and discourse in class have really helped to make this class enjoyable for myself as a teacher, but also (I hope) for my students who don’t have to listen to my lecture from a powerpoint all day.

Most weeks, in addition to readings and in-class and online discussions, we have a guest speaker and/or a field trip.  In public history, what can you really learn about your public and the field by sitting in a classroom listening to some graduate student expound on theory and ideas?  In fields that I myself have not had a ton of personal experience in, I have been lucky enough to find willing experts at the university or in the community who are willing to take time out of their days and busy schedules to come speak to my students.  This is something I am very grateful for, and I can’t begin to express the extent of my appreciation to those individuals and institutions.

In addition, my students are required to volunteer DOING public history for an organization in the community, and also to do hands-on individual projects.  The project proposals I got had some really great and innovative ideas, and I can’t wait to see what my students produce.  These things will go into their portfolio, and also give them experience in the field, and something to put on their resumes should they decide to pursue public history.

I recently created a website for the class as a place where student projects can “live” after completion.  Some driving or tour guides, brochures, or informational tools might not otherwise get any exposure, so check out http://www.explorationsinpublichistory.wordpress.com for more information about the class, photos, and coming soon…. Student-written blogs!  That’s right.  I’ve offered extra credit to students who want to write about some aspect of public history on their class website.  Again, this is a great opportunity to work on writing for the public, develop thoughts and ideas about aspects of public history, and also create a presence on the web.

Sorry to be so long-winded in this post, but I am so thrilled with this class that I had to share it with the world.

It's true: I owned this book. BUT NOT ANYMORE!

Essentially, I have ended up absolutely loving something that I never thought I wanted to do.  This reminds me of another time in my life when I had preconceived or ill-thought out notions about my professional career.  When I took the job as an Educator at the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis, my boss at the Sam Davis Home (after the first time I worked there…) laughed and could not believe that I, who was not the biggest fan of children at the time, was going to work in that exact field at a different museum.  Who knew that those experiences would lead me to where I am now? – Writing a dissertation about education in museums.

And honestly, aren’t I doing something in the field of public history, through teaching?  Oh Past-Katie… how little you knew then.

This is me now - just add public. BTW - You can buy me this shirt by clicking the picture. I wear a small.

This is, of course, a lesson for all aspects of life, but particularly in academic or professional work – why not try something new?  You never know where you might end up.

Are any of you readers teachers?  What kinds of things get you excited about teaching?  How do you share your enthusiasm with your students?

End of semester updates

Well the semester isn’t QUITE over, but it’s so close I can feel it!  This will mark the last spring semester of course-work EVER (which yes, I realize I have said that a couple times now…), but for real, I will be finished with PhD classes other than residency and dissertation hours in a little over a week!!!  I have had tons of news and breakthroughs in the past few weeks, so this post will try to encapsulate those and catch you up on what I’ve had going on.

Professor?

– I have a residency!!  After several really great meetings with organizations across the state, everything finally came down to funding (as always).  Luckily, the Public History program offered me the opportunity to do a Teaching Residency for the History Department at MTSU.  I wasn’t too excited about it at first, since I had a preconceived notion that teaching would mean I would have a class of US History 1 in the Fall semester and US History in the Spring semester.  That’s not the case at all!  Instead, this fall I will have a section of World Civ I, which will be great experience actually teaching college, because in the Spring I will be teaching Explorations in Public History, which is an upper-division undergraduate introduction to Public History!!  I have never taught my own courses, so this will be great experience, even if it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind… As I was told several times the  next week at NCPH, I’m super lucky to have this opportunity, and I have absolutely nothing to complain about.  I’m really excited to teach, and any advice is welcome!!

At the NCPH Opening Reception by the bay

– I went to the National Council on Public History Conference in Pensacola, Florida at the beginning of April, and it was INCREDIBLE for a million reasons.  I met a bunch of great professionals and other graduate students in my field and reconnected with other contacts, I went to some great sessions, I got to spend a long weekend away from Murfreesboro and even got a little bit of beach time in!  There are countless stories, but I’ll stick with just a couple.  First, I signed up to be paired with a mentor through NCPH, which I recommend to any students or young professionals who go to the meeting.  My mentor and I met for lunch on Thursday of the conference, and he just had great advice and encouragement, and it was really just nice to have lunch with someone new who had perspective on my school stuff and my future and just life in general.  Second, I went to a session on teaching intro to public history, since I had JUST learned 4 days earlier that I would be teaching the Explorations in Public History course next spring.  I got some great advice and got to hear about what others are teaching, and made some contacts with others in my position.  Third, and possibly most importantly…

The site of my dissertation epiphany

– While walking through the pretty Pensacola park we passed each day on our way from the hotel to the historic village, I had an epiphany.  Out of the blue, my dissertation and research topic popped right into my head!  I don’t want to get too detailed into it since it is still developing in my head, but it is something I am really excited about, its meaningful to the world and community (which is super important to me), and hopefully it will help museums, historic sites, and people in general.

– On a related note, I have assembled my pre-dissertation committee, and I think they’re pretty awesome, and basically the best committee of all time.

That's me!

– Perhaps MOST exciting (though really, everything has been MOST exciting lately), was a surprise I found on my MTSU account last week.  Apparently the history department has a few scholarships they award each year, and I was the recipient of one!  I am the honored and happy recipient of the Bart McCash “Outstanding Graduate Student  in History” Memorial Scholarship!  It was definitely a welcome surprise, and I’m so grateful to the committee for selecting me for this award and recognizing my work in the time I’ve been back at MTSU.

With Dr. Sayward

– I also accepted a nomination to be the Association of Graduate Students in History’s PhD Representative to the Public History Committee for the Fall 2011-Spring 2012 school year!

– Things are going GREAT at the Sam Davis Home… we are all getting ready for Days on the Farm (which also happens to fall right at the end of finals week…) and school groups almost every day the next several weeks, then summer camps right around the corner as well!  It’s keeping me busy, but I love driving on to that beautiful site in the mornings and spending the days with the greatest co-workers.

Pretty drive in, even in the rain

So, yeah!  That’s pretty much all of my exciting news of late, and hopefully once the semester wraps up I will have more time to post all the crazy ideas I’ve had running through my mind.

Thanks for reading!

First week in a Public History PhD Program

This has been a great week of learning!!  I have really high hopes for the rest of the semester.  Currently I am working on applying for credit through portfolio review, and once that is finished I will have a better idea of the courses I will take next semester, but for now, I’m quite happy with my classes.

I am enrolled in Public History Seminar, which introduces the field and contains an interpretive project with the Stones River National Battlefield.   I also signed up for a management course,  Operations and Foundations of Management, as part of my interdisciplinary studies.  Foundations of Educations, also an interdisciplinary course, will hopefully help me to build my skills as an educator with a more “formal” education (irony).  Lastly, I’m taking an Ancient Egypt course as part of my historical field requirement.

So far, I have been able to relate everything in the business class to a museum in some way.  We had an interesting discussion in class about efficiency and effectiveness and what the results of each are (or are not).  I have some thoughts on this and hope to expound upon them in the near future..

For foundations of education, I had to write my “Philosophy of Education.”  As the only student without experience in graduate level education department courses, I have some concerns about whether or not mine is exactly what the professor is looking for, but I will include it here anyway:

My philosophy of education is not, perhaps, as developed as others who have been in the teaching field in the past, or those who have had formal teacher training. My philosophy comes from the school of informal and participatory education within museums. As discussed in class, traditional learning is becoming obsolete. I believe that all students learn differently, and while some students may learn from typical lecture structure and taking notes, most students gain more from lessons in which they can see results or tangible evidence. Students should be engaged and involved in the learning process, not passive bystanders.

I wrote a book review on Elaine Davis’ How Student’s Understand the Past for Museum Practices at the University of Memphis, which further explains my views on why experiential learning is so important.

This semester has had a promising start, and I can’t wait to share all that I learn with the museum world.