Last Thursday was the first class of the second semester and, boy, was I a nervous wreck. Seriously, I sat up all night refining my lesson plans and lecture notes… I’m not sure why I’m so nervous before each class, especially since I’ve taught this same history course several times. Maybe it’s because each section is different ~ the students, the discussions, the learning process, etc.
The course is a seven week long evening class that meets once per week for four hours per session. That may seem like a long time but it really goes by pretty quickly. I have seven students, most of whom are nursing students who are fulfilling a history requirement. I began the class by introducing myself and giving the students a little bit of information about my classroom philosophy. I don’t believe in dumping a bunch of useless facts into my students’ heads. To me, that serves no purpose. People already come to my class with an aversion to history so I try to make it interesting and relevant to their lives. I provide the foundation for discussions by putting events within a historical context and then I ask them to talk about something that is happening in the world today that relates to the chapter we are studying. I’ve found that by making the lessons relevant to the individual, they get more out of the class (sort of a “the personal is political” approach to history). Furthermore, this method encourages my students to pay attention to current events (they have to watch the news or read a newspaper to participate in the discussions) and, hopefully, it makes them more aware of the world around them.
So, we’ll see in six weeks or so when the student evaluations are submitted whether my methods are helpful. So far, I’ve received positive reviews from my students. A few have come to me and told me that they enjoy the discussions and that they’ve become more confident in other classes during discussion because they feel like they have something to contribute…I really don’t think I could ask for more.