When I decided to become a teacher, I had a vision. United States history, ideally AP United States history. I was after all, a United States history major in college, of the 20+ history courses that I took, only 3 or 4 were non-American (and those were European). So when I was first hired into the social studies department I was very disappoint to have to teach geography while the other two teachers hired at the same time DID get to teach US history. Bummer.
The next year I was able to replace the geography with world history. At least I didn’t have to teach freshmen any longer and I could actually teacher history. Finally three years later, a single US history section opened up. It was an amazing year. I pulled out all my old college notes, found some great projects, and created a solid course. Plus, I had what was probably my best group of students ever. These 35 or so juniors were significantly more mature then my other four sections of world history, would discuss the material everyday, and it became the favorite part of my day. The next year I got two sections of US history and I had another good year.
Then, an English teacher and myself dreamed up a humanities program. We would block the kids together, team-teach it, and run a truly interdisciplinary program. However, while this was one of my dream goals, we had to do with sophomores, so I reluctantly gave up the juniors and settled back into a day full of sophomores and world history. Now the first year of the humanities program was amazing. It was probably the best teaching year I ever had, in part due to a great group of kids and the way in which the English teacher and I work together.
Two years later, after a less successful second round, the English teacher left to further her education. Instead of re-working the curriculum with someone different (this woman and I had gone to the same high school and had a similar philosophy on teaching the course), I dropped it, under the pre-tense that if she returns we will start it back up (don’t think that is going to happen).
I pushed hard for US history again and was able to get it – two sections to balance out my four sections of world history (I taught 6/5’s which is considered overtime). Then over the course of the school year I realized that I had changed. Over the past few years I have really tried to expand my most Euro-centric world history class (California standards) into the rest of world. Most of the books I’ve read over the past three or four years, both fiction and non-fiction, have about non-European cultures. While I enjoyed the students in my US history classes a bit more because they were older, I found that it was the world history content that was grabbing me. My interest in US history has waned, in fact, I found myself almost bored with the details of the revolutionary war, events leading to the Civil War, and the Depression. These were eras that ten years ago I found fascinating.
All of this is strange to me. I dreamed of teaching US history, in part because I rejected European history. I never loved European history. I enjoyed some of the eras, but always felt it was, well, too Eurocentric. Then, despite 19 years of formal education, I discovered there was a world outside of America and Europe that had a rich history even when Europeans weren’t there.
Part 2 coming soon.