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Spotlight - Department of History, Illinois State University Spotlight

Meet our Graduate Assistants

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Rachel Lawrence

Hometown:        Bartonville, IL

Plans after graduation:   I hope to be working toward my doctorate but I may also seek a position in a museum.

Favorite period in history:  Roman Empire and medieval period, especially Eastern Europe

Favorite historical figure:  Emperor Vespasian, Stefan the Great, and Vlad Dracula

What do you like about being a GA:  I like giving undergraduates someone else to ask for advice, just in case they need another opinion.  If I change their views on history and they realize history is not dull, I consider it a job well done.

What advice would you give to undergraduates:  Study hard but make time for yourself, too.  You do not want to burn out too soon.  Get involved and make a difference.  Study abroad, if you can, and do what interests you.  Importantly, do not just read: learn!

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Look for the profile of another History Department Graduate Assistant in a couple of weeks.


News - Department of History, Illinois State University News

Faculty/Staff Activities

Touré Reed: Presented “Title VII: Workplace Fairness and the Retreat from Economic Justice” at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), held in Memphis.

Amy Wood: Was chair and commentator for a session on “Race, Place, and Popular Violence After the Civil War” at the same ASALH conference.

Former Student Receives Award

Mike Mitchell (MA’14) was a CAS Recipient of the James L. Fisher Award for Outstanding Thesis and is now entered into the university-wide competition.  His thesis, “Modernism on Trial: An Analysis of Historic Preservation Debates in Chicago,” was guided by Alan Lessoff (chair) and Roger Biles.


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Dr. Ross Kennedy gave an overview of the German and Allied bombing campaigns in Europe during World War II yesterday at the International Seminar Series: Bombing Europe’s Cities in World War II. He assessed some of the historical controversies surrounding the American and British bombing of Germany’s cities during the war for the audience. Kennedy is the author of The Will to Believe: Woodrow Wilson, World War I, and America’s Strategy for Peace and Security. He teaches courses at ISU on American history and on international politics from 1914 through the early Cold War.

This was part of the continuing International Studies Seminar Series sponsored by the Office of International Studies and Programs. See more at: http://events.illinoisstate.edu/cal/event/showEventMore.rdo;jsessionid=570D4DE13F3EDD7385CC60972DAC24F6#sthash.Uks9ufcp.dpuf

 

 

Faculty Activities/Accomplishments

- Ross Kennedy – last summer Ross was an invited speaker and seminar leader for “Woodrow Wilson and the First World War” at the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations Summer Institute at Williams College. He was also interviewed by Radio Free Europe-Russia on World War I; by the Pantagraph and WJBC radio on World War I; and by WJBC on D-Day

- Kyle Ciani – on the WGS website, Kyle is praised by two of the three students featured as one of their favorite WGS professors; http://wgs.illinoisstate.edu/

- Katie Jasper – received a CAS Faculty International Travel Grant for a summer 2014 workshop that she attended as a contributor to the Cambridge History of Medieval Monasticism in the Latin West.

 

Calendar

International Seminar Series: Urban Tourism and Citizens of the World
Wed, October 1, 2014 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Bone Student Center (BON), 1st Floor West Lounge
International Seminar Series: World Cup Cities For Whom?
Wed, October 22, 2014 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Bone Student Center (BON), 1st Floor West Lounge
International Seminar Series: Visuality and Modernity in Shanghai
Wed, November 5, 2014 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM Bone Student Center (BON), 1st Floor West Lounge

View all Department of History events

List of Events feedDepartment Events Feed

Student Teaching Abroad in England: Brighton University-Eastbourne

Blogs from student teachers in the field.

Teaching in England Necessitates Drinking Lots of Tea…..Apparently

It has been two long weeks since my last post here and that has been a direct result of my very busy schedule. Thus far every day has began at 5.45 am and ended at around 1700-1730 when I walk in the door to my house and weekends have involved a lot of travel with University sponsored trips to Paris, Oxford, and Stratford-Upon-Avon to name a few. This post, however, will focus only on the teaching side of England. With Easter Break now upon me travel will take up the majority of my time for the next two weeks so my next post will be on travel and seeing the sights out here in Europe.
So, to begin, I should probably explain the title. My daily schedule has me teaching four lessons a day, each one lasting 90 minutes. Teachers meet before school for tea, after the second lesson teachers go to the restaurant (cafeteria) for lunch….and tea, after the third lesson teachers go to the restaurant again for more tea, and finally after school we go once again to the tea cart for another cup of the stuff for our daily after school meetings. Therefore, I have learned that teaching in England requires quite a lot of tea breaks and all the teachers here look forward to them.

Now to the good stuff; teaching here has been both a rewarding and challenging experience. I am teaching at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy which caters to the lower socioeconomic end of Brighton. My students are very bright but their skill sets are definitely on the low end. Their behavior leaves much to be desired and the vast majority of them have little to no motivation to learn or accomplish anything during lessons.  My first day I was told that I would not be able to teach in the same way that I was used to in the United States, that being student led lessons with group/partner activities and independent learning. The students here cannot, and this is exactly what I was told, “be trusted to work independently”. This has forced me to slightly alter my approach to lesson planning. I still, stubbornly, cling to my old habits and luckily, because of the length of each of my lessons (90 minutes) I am able to lead multiple activities a lesson keeping my students always on their toes and not giving them enough time to get bored and misbehave.

During my time at Brighton-Aldridge I will have taught three different subjects; history, geography, and civics. Each teacher in the Humanities department is expected to be able to teach each and everyone of these subjects. This is a policy which, in my opinion, leads to some very big problems. For instance, during my first week here I observed a history lesson taught by a teacher who admitted to me that she was not a Historian and that history was her weakest subject in the Humanities. During her lesson I watched her give blatantly wrong information to students about the Holocaust and pre-war Germany. This is only an isolated incident and I have not seen it repeated since then (mostly because I have taken over the classroom since then) but I can only imagine that it has happened before and will most likely happen again. 

Now for the tricky part of my teaching experience here. Thus far I have taught five different age levels, years 7-11 (the equivalent of our grades 6-10) and each lesson has been very different. The year sevens and eights have been focused on laying a good foundation for their Humanities studies. The year nines are beginning to learn essential history skills like sourcing and close reading, this is an important year because when a student finishes year 9 they are given the option to choose to take history as a year 10 and 11 and eventually take the History GCSE. Once in year 10 the students start learning GCSE necessary topics and the teachers begin to really hammer in the skills they will need to successfully pass the exam. This is the year that I believe the whole English system really starts to disappoint me. The content that they learn is very narrow, by this I mean the lessons only focus on the topics that will be covered on the GCSE (this year that includes 1920′s America, the Origins of the Cold War, Crises of the Cold War, American Civil Rights Movement, and Norther Ireland), and that is all the students will learn for the entire year. All of year 11 if focused on preparing the students for the test. Almost every class involves one mock exam question and focuses on building one essential skill that they will need to successfully answer it. This would really be my one genuine complaint with the English system. As much as we have heard in the United States that our teachers focus too much on teaching to the test, teachers are have no choice. The GCSE dominates year 11, and to a lesser degree year 10, learning.

Since this has been a very content heavy post and in an attempt to break up the monotony a little bit here’s a picture of the Eiffel Tower and one of a statue of Napoleon Bonaparte that was in the Palace of Versailles. Next up: travels through Spain, Italy, Greece, and Croatia.

study abroad 6 study abroad 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Sights, New Challenges

After spending my first weekend in Eastbourne fumbling around a new city in a new country it was time to go to work on Monday morning. The first thing on the agenda was a quick orientation and introduction to the English education system and our expectations for our time here. The first day at the University of Brighton was a spent being given packets of national curriculum, getting our school placements, and meeting our new supervisors.

I was placed at the Brighton-Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) in Brighton. The school itself is very new, only having been founded in 2010, and caters to the lower socio-economic end of Brighton. I was able to visit for an hour on Wednesday of my first week in England and spoke with the Head Teacher for the Humanities department. I left the school that day feeling a little overwhelmed with how drastically different my experiences would be here from what they were back home in the U.S. The first would be my teaching schedule. BACA operates on a block schedule with only four class periods a day each one lasting 90 minutes. The next surprise to me was the classes and grade levels I would be teaching. English humanities teachers are expected to be able to teach all courses the school offers and all grade levels as well, I would be treated no differently. I am going to be teaching History, Civics, Government, Geography, and Religion to years 7-11 (the equivalent of our grades 6-10). I have never taught students younger than 14 so this would be a real change for me, but one that I am very much looking forward to. The final drastic change would be in teaching style. English teachers are taught to teach the same way that we are in America, student centered instruction as opposed to being teacher led, but the school that I am at has students with very low skill levels and low motivation, this means that the students are not capable of working independently or in small groups and teachers have to be very structured with their lessons and take control of the class as soon as possible and not relinquish that control. As a consequence, I cannot teach the way that I am comfortable with and have to adapt my style on the fly to meet the skill levels of my students. My time here will be interesting to say the least but I think that the challenges will ultimately help me as a teacher and I look forward to meeting them.

On a different note, my first two weeks in England have also been spent travelling around the country. The first weekend was a very busy one with a two day trip to London on Thursday and Friday and then a day trip Bodiam Castle and Rye. The first day in London was part of  University of Brighton sponsored trip and we saw all the very touristy things like Buckingham Palace, Parliament, Big Ben, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, and Piccadilly Circus. After our sponsored trip was over we decided to stay the night in London and go on our own tour of the city. That night we rode the London Eye and got lost in the massive city after dark, which is always part of the fun of travelling in a new city. The next morning we did some more touristy things but a few of them were a little off the beaten path. The first stop was the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street, then Abbey Road Studios, Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station, and finally to London Tower and Tower Bridge. London is a fantastic city with so many things to do that we quite frankly did not have enough time to do everything on our list, but we got to see some of the most important sights and for that we were glad.

The next morning started bright and early with a bus trip to Bodiam Castle and Rye. Bodiam Castle was a spectacularly preserved castle that the public is allowed to walk through. The castle itself is very impressive, even if it was never really built for warfare, it was instead built as a way for its Lord to show off his wealth. The city of Rye is another very old city that has a long history. It was once a haven for smugglers but has now become, at least in my short time there, a haven for antique shops. I enjoyed walking through the city and wandering down its many winding back alleys and getting lost in them.

So, two weeks down and I already feel as though I have been living here for much longer than that. There are many more places to go and many more sights to see before I leave for home in May.

 

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First Days in England

So this is the beginning of the blog I will be doing during my time abroad in England. I am the only one travelling to England from the History Department this semester. Luckily there are 10 more ISU students from the College of Education going so I will not be completely alone on the trip. The flight we all took left Chicago on February 21st and arrived in London on the 22nd.

After a 7 hour flight from O’hare to Heathrow, an hour wait in English customs (they were training new Border Agents so that slowed the whole thing down), and a two hour drive to Eastbourne I finally made it to my host families home. After being shown around my new home I was able to unpack and finally rest after being awake for more than 24 straight hours.

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My first day with my host family was awesome. I had a cup of tea and watched some 6 Nations Rugby, England vs. Ireland (England Won!). After that we watched some Olympics, ate a great dinner, and then I finally crashed for the night. 

beachy head

 

The next day my host family drove me around Eastbourne to help get me accustomed to the city. We drove up to Beachy Head, down the coast, and to Hastings where we saw Pevensey Castle and then to Battle where we kind of saw the site of the 1066 Battle of Hastings (I say kind of because the area has been hit hard with storms over the past few weeks and months and the Abbey was closed due to weather related damage or something like that.) After a nice drive around town we returned back home at which point I ventured out on foot by myself to take in the town for myself. Tomorrow I travel to Brighton University and begin my orientation for teaching. More posts to come as the semester continues on.

Faculty Publications

 

See faculty publications for a full list of recent publications.

What can you do with a History Major?

More information on careers also available at American Historical Association, ISU Career Center, and Pre-Law Advisement Center

Email History

Department of History
Normal, Il 61790-4420
Phone: (309) 438-5641
Fax: (309) 438-5607

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