After 1,369 miles in a cool Dodge Avenger, missing my wife and kids tremendously, a bunch of hotel breakfasts and fast food lunches, a combination of podcasts, books on CD, and satellite radio, seven museums, four battlefields, and a lot of Diet Coke … what did I get out of this trip?
My appreciation for our history as a nation continues to increase. I mentioned it many times, but there is something truly special about walking in the footsteps of the past, to see the places that I have read, talked, and taught about, and look at the feats of the ordinary doing the extraordinary. I was able to see the highs and lows of our history. As I travel and talk to the people visiting the same sites, I am happy that I am not alone in this appreciation. Hopefully, I can continue to convey this enthusiasm to my students, colleagues, and friends.
My content knowledge about the Civil Rights Movement, the Western theater of the Civil War, and World War II grew by leaps and bounds in five short days. The historical sites are the best teachers. I can’t find a better book, video, or website to learn about what happened, why it happened, and why it’s important. Adding this additional understanding into my teaching is exciting. I hate to say it, but I am ready for December (Civil War), April (WWII), and May (Civil Rights) of next school year!
I think the most important visits of my trip dealt with the Civil Rights Movement. Not only did I learn much more about what happened in the South, in those well known venues of Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma, and Atlanta, but I also saw how that part of our history is so important to our African American community. While that may seem obvious, it takes on a whole new light standing at an exhibit about segregation next to someone who experienced it, talking to her grandchildren and recalling her memories. I can never come close to putting myself or my students in that situation, but I can hopefully bring us closer to understanding that perspective. I also enjoyed documenting my trip with postings, images, audio, and video. It was exciting every night to post my experiences, and even more exciting to check in on who was able to read about the trip and make a comment on the blog. I can use this as an example of education communication when Matt Montagne and I present at the National Council of the Social Studies annual Conference in Houston in November.
Overall the trip gave some time to collect my thoughts after a challenging school year, see some places that I have always wanted to see, increase my knowledge and understating of our nation’s past, strengthen my passion for teaching American history, and be thankful to teach at a school that supports such a trip. When I told the various people I met what I was doing, they were amazed – first, that I would do it, and second, that my school would support and pay for it!
I also realized that I miss my family incredibly, and that I am glad to be going home.