Admittedly, I have a difficult time talking with students about our Founders’ intentions when they penned the 2nd Amendment. As a graduate teaching assistant in April 1999 I started paying more attention to gun violence after the massacre at Columbine High School. I knew that gun violence existed before that tragic day in Littleton, Colorado, but in my middle-class upbringing, the random killing of innocents was a topic relegated to “dangerous” urban areas. There was almost no discussion of gun violence in the white suburban community in which I was raised, nor in the town where I lived in 1999. Columbine, however, gave me nightmares. As an educator-in-training, the idea of being a teacher charged with protecting children from the terror of bullets was to me then, and remains today, horrifying. Columbine, sadly, was not an anomaly. According to the Washington Post more than 300,000 children have experienced gun violence at school since 1999. Students are often curious about the intent of the 2nd Amendment when it was ratified late in the 18th century. In a previous blog I wrote about the challenge of discussing Roe v. Wade with a generation of students undeniably impacted by social media and 24-hour news channels with obvious ideological biases. Discussions of current concerns about gun violence inevitably lead to students expressing divergent opinions about individual rights versus the rights of the government. In recent years the sides have become entrenched. Without a doubt, as an educator this topic is only becoming more difficult for me to address in a bipartisan manner. I shudder at the suggestion of arming teachers, for example, because I know that placing a gun in my panicked hands would do nothing to protect my students from the unthinkable. I’m quite adept at avoiding discussion of the 2nd Amendment in class. As a social historian, I touch briefly on the writing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and focus instead on the women and African Americans who were left out of our nation’s early notions of citizenship. I feel ill-equipped to explain the intentions of our Founders so I am constantly searching for web-based discussions of this now controversial amendment to which I can refer students. While I’ve had some meaningful conversations with students about the issue of gun control, I recognize the limits of my ability to remain neutral on this topic. So here are a few resources that might be helpful to those of you, like me, struggling with the horrible fear of school shootings while also believing in our students’ need to form opinions on their own: National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution is a great starting point for anyone who wants an introduction to both sides of the argument. The site provides a “Common Interpretation” of each amendment, and then offers a brief essay by experts on opposing sides of the debate. The site also posts video aids to share with students, again focusing on the goal of sharing both “sides” of the debate. Faculty wishing to help students better understand the controversies surrounding this amendment might suggest students check out findlaw.com This commercial site touts itself as one designed for “legal professionals” but also offers concise explanations, with academic references, of challenging legal questions. The section on the Second Amendment contains helpful information about recent court cases that have fueled public debate over the amendment. Finally, suggest that students look at new research on the intent of the Second Amendment. In the wake of racial unrest in recent years, historian Carol Anderson’s work examines the amendment’s troubled relationship to the institution of slavery and control of free people of color in the 19th century. NPR interviewed Anderson in 2021 and students interested in the history of race relations and systemic racism will find her arguments particularly interesting given current debates over policing in the United States. No doubt there are many more resources to help our students wade through the murky waters of understanding the Second Amendment’s historical context. How do you handle this topic with your students? Please share.
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This summer I’m working with a group of faculty at my college to study the assignments we use in courses designated part of our General Education program. This project is part of a grant that allows faculty to evaluate how well our assignments are meeting the College’s “Educated Person outcomes.” In my case I’m assessing a short (4-5 page) writing and research project that I’ve used for many years in my US History II survey course. I’ve said in previous posts that one of the best things about blogging about teaching is that I am forced to constantly reassess my own practices. This grant has amplified the benefits of that experience and helped me to focus on the clarity of my instructions to the students, my personal process of assessment, and the creation of a rubric for this specific project. This project is worth 25% of the students’ course grade. In the past I have found rubrics useful when grading lower-stakes assignments such as Discussion Board posts in online classes because they help students to see how they might improve their future discussion posts while allowing me to grade quickly and (in my view) accurately. I have not previously used a rubric to grade this particular assignment for no other reason than I had not designed an evaluation tool to use. Participating in this grant-funded project has given me the motivation needed to view the project through a new lens and I found the process of writing a rubric instructional in the sense that it forced me to identify exactly what I am looking for in my students’ work and how various degrees of those expectations may be met. In addition to assessing the students’ submissions using my newly minted rubric, I am using this opportunity to compare student work across different modes of instruction. I will be comparing work submitted by an in-person class that met in a traditional 15-week semester this past spring with that of a fully online course that is part of our summer intensive offerings (6 weeks). I’m interested to see if there are significant differences between the overall quality of work submitted in the two different time frames and modes of instruction. I’m excited to share my findings in the coming months. What’s on your teaching and learning agenda for the summer months? Please share.
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The Student Login insights card is one of several insights in Achieve that can help you understand more about your students.
For instance, the Student Login insight card can help identify patterns of student engagement with the Achieve platform (e.g., help you identify students who are not entering into the Achieve platform in the first place).
After reviewing the Student Login insight card, if you find that some students may be disengaged or minimally engaged with the Achieve platform, these students may need additional support to appropriately seek help . Appropriate “help seeking” behaviors are important strategies that can help improve students’ learning.
“We must regularly ask, not only ‘What are you learning?’ but ‘How are you learning?’” (Weimer, 2012)
As you’ve probably noticed from firsthand experience, not all students seek help in the same way. For instance, some students seek help in order to learn (e.g., ask for hints but seek to solve the problem on their own) while others tend to seek help in order to obtain a correct or ready-made answer (1, 3, 4) .
Students who tend to be more concerned about performance may avoid seeking help or seek help in non-adaptive ways. In comparison, students who are focused on mastering concepts and self-improvement tend to seek help in more instrumental or adaptive ways and are less threatened by seeking help (4, 5, 6) .
If you’re interested in encouraging more adaptive help-seeking behaviors in your students, consider the following:
Encourage students to intentionally use feedback that is given to them. For instance, you could ask students to go back and try to re-solve a problem that they initially got incorrect then determine if and to what extent they need further assistance (7) .
Help students tolerate uncertainty. This can help students normalize occurrences of “not knowing” and help transition such occurrences into desirable intellectual challenges (8) .
Promote learning and adaptive help seeking behaviors by providing students with explanations rather than direct answers (7) .
Help students be metacognitive about their learning. Students who have stronger metacognitive skills seek help more effectively or adaptively (9) .
Ensure you are clear and explicit with students about what skills or knowledge are needed to perform a given task, successfully complete an assignment, etc. You may ask yourself “What is the task that I want my students to do?” and “What do students need to know to do it?” (4) .
Help-seeking can be associated with personal “costs” for some students. Be aware of this and try to establish classroom norms for help-seeking behaviors (e.g., rules or procedures by which students can obtain help like asking peers or interrupting lecture to ask a question) Consider leveraging technology to reduce “costs” of seeking help (4) .
Build a learning environment where students have permission to identify confusions (11)
Keep in mind, help-seeking usually requires some degree of social skills that students may need help to master. For instance, prosocial skills can be beneficial for help-seeking. But students may need some guidance in the skill of asking questions (10, 12) . Your students can use the following steps to help them ask questions:
Become aware that you need to ask a question or get help.
Decide what you would like to know more about.
Decide who to ask- someone who has the best information.
Think about different ways or words you could use to ask the question.
Decide on the right time and setting to ask the question.
Ask the question.
Weimer, M. (2012,). Deep learning vs. surface learning: Getting students to understand the difference. Retrieved from: https://www.lander.edu/sites/lander/files/Documents/About/Offices_Departments/academic-affairs/white... .
Huet N., Motak, L., & Sakdavong, J. (2016). Motivation to seek help and help efficiency in students who failed in an initial task. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 584-593.
Newman, R.S. (2002). How self-regulated learners cope with academic difficulty: the role of adaptive help-seeking. Theory into practice, 41, 132-138.
Karabenick, S. A., & Berger, J. (2013). Help seeking as a self-regulated learning strategy. In H. Bembenutty, T. J. Cleary, & A. Kitsantas (Eds.), Applications of self-regulated learning across diverse disciplines: A tribute to Barry J. Zimmerman (pp. 237-261).
Karabenick, S. A. (1998). Strategic help seeking: Implications for learning and teaching. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Karabenick, S. A. (2003). Seeking help in large college classes: A person centered approach. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 28, 37-58.
Webb, N. M., & Palincsar, A. S. (1996). Group processes in the classroom. In D. C. Berliner & R. C. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 841-873). Simon & Schuster Macmillan.
McCaslin, M., & Good, T. L. (1996). The informal curriculum. In D.C. Berliner & R.C. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 622- 670). Simon & Schuster Macmillan.
Tobias, S., & Everson, H. T. (2002). Knowing what you know and what you don't: Further research on metacognitive knowledge monitoring (College Board Rep. No. 2002-03). College Board.
Goldstein, A. P., & McGinnis, E. (1997). Skillstreaming the adolescent: New strategies and perspectives for teaching prosocial skills. (Revised ed.). Research Press.
Tanner, K. D. (2012). Promoting student metacognition. CBE - Life Sciences Education, 11, 113-120.
Gall, S. N. (1981). Help-seeking: An Understudied Problem-Solving Skill in Children. Developmental Review, 1 (3), 224-246.
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Good digital platforms support all the efforts you’ve already put into your history teaching. So how is Macmillan Learning doing this with ACHIEVE? Select one super short video that speaks to you.
5 Reasons Why Achieve is Different in 1 Minute.
Teaching Students to Think Like Historians with Primary Sources
Improving Student Preparedness with History
Assignable Skills Tutorials & Reflection Activities for Students
Instructor Activity Guides in Achieve for History
Using Analytics to Identify Student Barriers
For a deeper look at Achieve for History, you can also meet with Stephen, your learning solutions specialist for history.
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On March 25th, 1911, a fire kills 146 at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. It would become one of the most notorious tragedies in American industrial history. From the devastation stemmed new regulations that aimed to better protect the safety of factory workers.
At the time of the fire, most employees were young women immigrants that worked in true "sweatshop" conditions for extremely little pay, averaged 12 hours a day, and had no days off. It's believed that there were approximately 600 workers when the fire began. With no adequate exit doors, a hose that was rusted shut, 146 people were tragically killed from the fire, jumping, or succumbing later to injuries.
To learn more about this, check out Jo Ann Argersinger's Bedford Series book: "The Triangle Fire, 2e" here: https://www.macmillanlearning.com/college/us/product/The-Triangle-Fire/p/1319048854
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Will we be seeing you at OAH 2022?
The OAH Conference on American History is the leading conference for American historians and the study of history that occurs in the Spring of every year. We invite all those interested in history to join us in Boston, March 31-April 3. Join us at booth #509 for a demo of Achieve and to request a copy of one of our History products. See you there!
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Who was the real St. Patrick? Was that legend about the snakes true? And why did so many St. Patrick's Day traditions start in America?
Dig a bit deeper into the history of St. Patrick and the origins of St. Patrick's Day HERE !
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We invite you to watch "Why We Oppose Pockets for Women" A satirical poem by Alice Duer Miller, voiced by Jane Smith, is a delightful and biting satire to kick off Women's History Month. Please enjoy!
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For me, the return to campus after nearly two full years (summer and winter sessions included) of remote teaching has been exciting and somewhat turbulent. While the students are reacclimating to long-standing classroom practices (shutting off cell phones) and adapting to pandemic-related protocols (wearing a mask in class), I’m thrilled to hear my colleague lecturing in the classroom next door. I’m grateful for the enthusiasm of students who are happy to be back in the physical classroom. There seems to be an unspoken joy amongst teachers and students who relish once again being part of a group. In spite of it being my fifteenth year of teaching at the same campus, however, I can’t seem to remember which classroom to go to at 10am on Tuesdays. Twice I have impatiently waited in the hallway outside the wrong room wondering why the students were not vacating the space only to discover that the problem was entirely me. And I find myself struggling with my classroom confidence. After so much time without live human beings in front of me, I’m feeling very self-conscious. Can they hear me through the mask? Can they read my handwriting on the board? Am I talking too fast? Am I talking too loudly? These thoughts rattle through my mind as I try my best to keep students' attention on the course content. Mostly, however, I’m worried about what has been lost by the students over the past two years. At a community college the concept of preparedness and how to overcome gaps in students’ K-12 experiences is under constant discussion. The pandemic has made the challenges we have always faced even more dire and I’m making changes to my syllabus on the fly to adapt to what I perceive as students’ immediate needs. This week, for example, I’m thinking a lot about note taking in advance of the first exam. I’ve distributed a study guide and asked students to bring all of their notes to class tomorrow in hopes that we can identify deficiencies before they spend the weekend engaged in studying. I’m hopeful that by completing practice questions in small groups we can model the upcoming in-class, timed exam experience that some of my students have never experienced at the college level. Stay tuned!
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Recently a Catholic school in Massachusetts found itself immersed in controversy over their decision to serve a fried chicken lunch as part of Black History Month. The public attention and discourse surrounding the incident reminded me how far we still need to move as a society in terms of understanding our national history and integrating non-white perspectives. While I’m certain that as a society we will never be in complete agreement over what constitutes the “truth” about American history, I do believe that as teachers and historians we must guide our students towards a more comprehensive view of our nation’s diverse past. For me, the “fried chicken” controversy speaks to the general problem of “Black History Month” – a mere month to turn the public’s short attention span to the history of a people that is far more complex and important than can be covered by snippets over the course of twenty-eight days. Those of us who teach black history recognize that it is filled with both triumphs and tragedies – too many to squeeze into a singular four-week period. I worry, for example, that years from now students will remember the fried chicken controversy but will have gained no lasting, concrete knowledge or understanding of the lives of black Americans. Here, however, are two web-based resources that I have recently recommended to students and teachers to help integrate black history into every day , not just the days in February: Joel Christian Gill is an illustrator and historian whose Instagram posts showcase his efforts to bring black history to a wider audience through comic books and graphic novels. Students love his illustrations and are inspired to research the subjects about which he publishes. Gill’s posts also include his sometimes funny, often painful, observations as a professor of color, which can offer prompts for honest conversations about race in the classroom. The Zinn Education Project is valuable to teachers but useful to students of history as well. Of particular interest currently is the site’s publication of the National Report on the Teaching of Reconstruction (January 2022), which includes a state-by-state analysis of what K-12 students are learning about the topic. For those teaching US history at the college level the report provides valuable information about what public school students are taught prior to high school graduation based on state guidelines and standards. The information is both enlightening and alarming. While I’m often surprised at my students’ lack of knowledge of Reconstruction, I was shocked to learn that in my state public schools are not required to teach any Recon struction history. This new insight will certainly inform my planning for future curriculum. What black history-focused resources that should not be relegated to February have you encountered recently? Please share!
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Just before Valentine's Day, 1965, the Supremes released the breakaway-hit "Stop! In the Name of Love" after recording it a month prior. The song skyrocketed on the charts hitting Number 2 on the U.S. Billboard Top 100 and was also a Top 10 hit in the U.K.
The Supremes consisted of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard. Both the artists and the song's notoriety is often associated with the famous "traffic cop" dance style where the ladies sang the chorus and made the "stop" sign gesture with their hands in tune with the music. The Supremes went on to become one of Motown's leading female groups.
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Last week’s planned return to campus after three and a half semesters of remote teaching/learning was foiled by Omicron. Instead of meeting in person with students, I found myself lecturing to a screen full of black rectangles. Our college will spend the first four weeks of spring semester completely remote. Most of my students, it seems, are fatigued from on-camera class meetings and so it was that I appealed to any last sympathies they might have for their professors. “Please, don’t make me lecture to a screen with black rectangles and face-less names,” I pleaded. “When we meet in person next month it will be much less awkward if we are familiar with each other’s faces.” My pathetic begging resulted in about half the students turning on their cameras. A (very) small victory. This afternoon I participated in a time management seminar for students run by our college tutoring center. While the number of students who attended was small, their willingness to participate in such a program during the second week of the semester reiterates the importance of recognizing that students generally start out the semester hoping for success. Attendees of today’s program, just by being present, were acknowledging the challenge of managing academic demands with family and work responsibilities. Likely they have struggled with balance in the past and are hoping that this semester things will be different. Their presence made me wonder how many of my students are, in fact, engaged in this juggling while their cameras are off during my lectures. In my head I know that there are many reasons students do not turn on their cameras. Perhaps they feel uncomfortable having strangers see into their homes/workspaces. Maybe they are still in their pajamas and sipping their first coffee of the day during my 1pm class. Or they are shy and unwilling to have their images broadcast via the internet into their classmates’ private spaces. Or maybe they are texting or gaming or doing anything but listening to my lecture. I’m trying hard right now to convince myself that it’s not all about me. I have been working with college students since 1994. Nonetheless, the hour before my first remote lesson of this spring semester I was an anxious mess. It was as if I had never taught a class before in my life. Although by this point in the current pandemic I have attended dozens of remote events, I found myself overcome by nerves before opening that first meeting. I played with the backgrounds, adjusted and readjusted my speaker and microphone, and changed my sweater twice. There is something about teaching through the lens of a webcam that is incredibly intimidating even for the most seasoned professional. The screen of black rectangles intensified this anxiety for me: were the students listening and taking notes? Or were they logged in to class but doing something more interesting instead? All of this angst surrounding teaching remotely has made me even more nostalgic for the return to traditional in-person learning. But then, I wonder, how much will have changed? What will the new normal look like? I’m desperate to hear from those of you who are back in the traditional classroom. What has changed? For better or for worse? Please share.
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I recently had the opportunity to view the film “Loving” (2016), a dramatization based on Loving v. Virginia (1967) in which the Supreme Court struck down state laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage. For those who have yet to see the film it is a fictionalized account reportedly inspired by “The Loving Story” (2012), an HBO documentary. In addition to the obvious significance of the case in the history of civil rights, viewing the feature film reinforced for me the many areas of US history that can be enhanced by class discussion of the Loving case. Watching the entire film in class is not always optimal timewise but there are some excellent online resources to introduce the case to the class in its place. Encyclopedia Virginia offers a summary of the key people and events, which can be assigned in conjunction maps and figures documenting the history of interracial marriage in the United States. Both the ACLU and vividmaps.com have accessible visual aids to help students understand the geographical component of the debate. While general histories of the case often portray its importance within the broader movement for civil rights, in-class or online discussions may branch out to include such diverse topics as the civil history of marriage in the colonies and the States, miscegenation laws, the 14th Amendment, and the post-Civil War rise of Jim Crow. Students may also wish to discuss connections between Loving v. Virginia and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which guaranteed marriage equality. The Loving case offers an opportunity for students to talk historically about inter-racial relationships and the challenges faced by black and white families who sought to navigate friendships and marriages amidst brutally restrictive racial customs enforced by state laws. It also sheds light on the hypocrisy of a culture that long accepted sexual assault against black women (free and enslaved) by white men but believed that consenting adults should not have the legal right to create interracial unions. These conversations are no doubt difficult in the classroom but meaningful for students to fully understand the foundations and lasting-legacies of slavery and racism in our national history. I find the Loving case to be particularly relevant to students because, at heart, it is about the right of two people to create a family of their own choosing. It is sometimes easy to lose sight of the human beings behind Supreme Court rulings, but it is these historical actors that many of our students will engage with most willingly. Encourage them to read interviews with Mildred and Richard Loving, and to watch some of the short video clips of news coverage of the case. In learning about this case many students will be able to see connections to their own family histories and to reflect on how their lives may have been different without the end of miscegenation laws that Loving v. Virginia brought about.
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Every year around this point in the semester -- past midterms, almost at Thanksgiving Break, and starting to think about final exams -- I find myself needing some additional inspiration to push through the last weeks of fall courses. I can feel my motivation lagging and the early sunsets only add to my lethargy. I’m taking some time for reflection this week in hopes of reinvigorating my mental focus so I can finish the semester with the same (or close to ) enthusiasm I had the first week of September. The first step in my reinvigoration process has been to take some time to think ahead to next semester. Half of my course load is different in the spring so I looked back through some of the notes I kept from last spring to remind myself of particular changes I want to make to those courses. Giving my brain a future project to think about, even briefly, gave me a momentary break from the weight of the current semester. I like to make at least one significant curriculum change each time I offer a course. Reviewing my notes from last time around reminded me of ideas I had for spring 2022 and gave me an opportunity to feel excited about their implementation. Next I spent just a handful of minutes today browsing the current registration numbers for my spring courses. Registration just opened this past Monday and already my US Women’s History class is full. To know that there are so many students interested in the subject matter made me more excited to think about topics I will be teaching in the spring and how to better connect them to my students’ lives. Finally, as a last bit of motivation, this morning I pulled one of my all-time favorite books down from the shelf. Many years ago as a graduate teaching assistant at Boston College I was assigned to a Western Civilization II course. As a US history major I remember dreading the shift in focus to European history for so many precious hours of the week. The professor assigned Pat Barker’s brilliant Regeneration (1991) for the students to discuss as part of their World War I materials. While I cannot remember anything about leading those discussion sections, I have reread Regeneration every single year since that fall semester in 1999. The book itself is now in its thirtieth year of publication. Each time I read Barker’s fictional account of a British asylum for soldiers during the war I am reminded of how the book initially led me to read more about World War I when the course finished, and then many years later inspired me to start researching asylums in the United States around the same period of time. As I reread the book now I’m hopeful that some new inspiration and motivation will grow from the familiar story. How do you handle late-semester fatigue? Suggestions welcome.
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I’m getting my COVID booster today and am feeling very hopeful. If enough people in my neck of the woods follow through with vaccinations and boosters maybe, just maybe, I will be able to return to campus in the spring. Student reluctance to register for on-campus offerings has meant a third semester of all online teaching. I’m starting to optimistically think about what I might take back to the brick and mortar classroom space with me from this three semester-long remote experience. A colleague noted this week that she plans to continue using her online discussion board even when she is teaching in-person. Students who are reluctant to speak up in a traditional classroom space often submit eloquent, thoughtful discussion posts in online classes. My colleague is wise to take advantage of this reality and I plan to as well. I’ve also thought about using a chat-style system during my in-person lecture so that students who might be shy about raising their hand will still get their questions answered in class. Perhaps an open “chat” during my live lectures will allow me to engage more students in classroom meetings than I have in the past. While my attention span is too short to allow a scrolling chat to interrupt me during lecture, I can foresee looking at the chat in the last couple minutes of class to catch any questions that need to be addressed. I’m planning to continue to use the journal-based research assignment that I first wrote about in a blog this past spring (see “Summer Project: Assignment Reboot” ) in which I break down a traditional research project into sections and grade each separately. I designed this project because I felt my students were fatigued from online learning and not fully engaged in their semester-long projects. Forcing them to submit the project in sections has enabled me to keep tabs on their progress while providing feedback along the way, and has significantly reduced the problem of procrastination on the students’ end. I also find that the grading process for me is quicker (shorter chunks of work submitted at a time) and that I’m writing more comments. And finally, I’m planning to continue to take advantage of the abundance of human resources that are available virtually as a result of the pandemic. I encourage fellow faculty to follow the social media feeds of historical and cultural organizations that relate to the topics you are teaching in class. On November 1st, for example, my students will be attending a virtual artist talk by Nikole Hannah Jones titled “Examining Slavery’s Modern Legacy,” hosted by Massachusetts College of Art & Design ( register here ). Later in November they will be assigned to view (live or via the post-event recording) a talk by Gayle Jessup White hosted by the National Archives. “Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson, and a Descendant’s Search for Her Family’s Lasting Legacy” will be moderated virtually by historian Annette Gordon Reed ( register here ). I have no doubt you’ll be amazed by the access your students can have to fabulous speakers and resources with just a little time web surfing. If there is something that you’ve brought back into the traditional classroom with you from your experience with pandemic-era online learning, please share!
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