Tuesday, September 30, 2008

100,000 Visits! It's Happy Dance Time...

I reached a very important milestone here at History Is Elementary a little while ago….at 9:31 p.m. a reader from Beverly, Massachusetts visited this site first logging onto this post titled What’s In a Name? The subject involves the naming of America and how Amerigo Vespucci’s name is the textbook answer, yet there are other theories. Me being the me that I am I provide a possibility for you to ponder.

Then my new best friend from Beverly decided to click on the left-sidebar and peruse my answer to the question Is History Important?

Thank you to everyone who reaches me through email subscriptions, google searches, and all the other possible ways to read my meager offerings here.

100,000! Wow! That’s quite a large number.

The end of the school year always warrants a happy dance, but reaching a personal blog goal…..I think it’s worthy too.

Happy Dance! Happy Dance! Happy Dance! Happy Dance! Happy Dance!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Culture of No Fail Failure

This bailout thing has me pissed off…royally. How has the greatest nation on earth….the nation that can do anything….the nation that was forged when a group of so called rabble-rousers stood up to the King of England…the nation that mobilized one of the greatest fighting forces in history and defeated Hitler….the nation that walked on the Moon….the nation with grit, determination, and know how….how have we sunk to the point where we no longer allow failure?

Little Johnny has missed 90 days of school, but since “the test” will catch him next year he moves on ahead to fifth grade unprepared. I mean we wouldn’t want his little psyche hurt, would we?

Little Susie gets a trophy for cheering because…..well, she showed up to one of the three practices each week and well….all the kids should get a trophy so everything is fair.

The end of the school year finds me scrambling for award titles I can give certain students…..the students who don’t deserve one…..the students who have to receive an award because the administrator sends out a directive that “all students must receive an award” mainly so said administrator doesn’t have to deal with the student’s mom or dad (more than likely the reason behind why the kid doesn’t deserve one in the first place). These are the students who scream at me, the students who threaten me, the students who never complete an assignment, the student who I find on a daily basis hanging by one arm from the boy’s restroom ceiling, the student who bullies other students…..yeah, them. They get awards too, because….well, we need to be fair, remember?

What we are doing with this type of mentality is creating a culture where no one takes responsibility, the work ethic is basically left for dead along the highway, and then we all have the audacity to stand around, wring our hands and wonder why in the hell education in the United States isn’t improving.

In our (yes, I participate, but only because I’d lose my job if I didn’t) culture of never failing we are actually doing the opposite….we are failing, and we are doing a magnificent job of it.

So much so it has infiltrated the halls of higher education where students are ill-prepared, but walk about with an air of entitlement. Our no failure culture has crept into the business world because that’s were those entitled college and non-college students eventually end up.

….and now, our no fail culture has reached the hallowed halls of the US Capital. The banking firms that are being bailed out have known for months…several months things were going south. I mean, come on, you’re making money providing mortgages to folks with no….absolutely no qualifications. Why? Well, the non-working, non-asset holding public deserves a nice home in the suburbs. It’s a nice thing to do.

No job or a job barely making $25,000, barely a car, no savings, and bingo! You’ve hit the jackpot. You’re sitting pretty in a nice suburban home with three bedrooms, a front lawn, and a real driveway. Soon your neighbors get upset with you because your grass needs cutting, and they aren’t too happy about the cars lined up along the street because the driveway is for the grill and the parties, right? And suddenly those mortgage payments become due and as the months go by the payments begin to increase because you didn’t read the whole document. The cry goes out, “There ought to be a law….how dare those mean mortgage companies make people sign mortage deals they can’t handle?!?”

Then as the foreclosure signs go up and home after home on your street is abandoned and left derelect there comes the cry, “These people can’t help it. Something should be done to help them keep their home.” They have no responsibility for taking on a debt they couldn’t handle. Why? Well, why should they? I mean what’s government for….it’s there to help people, isn’t it? The government should make sure those people keep their homes.

….and now….

The banks can’t get rid of their foreclosed properties fast enough, the money that was supposed to come in from all of those fantastic sub-prime deals didn’t materialize (why would they think it would?), they’ve borrowed money from other financial institutions to stay afloat creating a house of cards that flew to the floor last week. Once again the cry rings out, “Oh my gosh….we can’t let them fail! Something must be done…..they must not have any responsibility in this. Why? Well, why should they?”

John Q. Public is ready and waiting to foot the bill. We pay taxes and don’t even realize we’re doing it since the government makes it easy on us by taking it from us before we actually get our paycheck and don't forget all of those little embedded taxes.

Funny though….if you really take a minute to notice…..the politicians are busy pointing to the folks on the other side as the culprits in the mess, but the only people taking the responsibility is the tax payer.

Until we understand as a nation that government is not there to wipe our rear ends, hand us a bottle, and burp us….until we understand as a nation that each of us holds the responsibility for our own version of the American dream….until we understand that as parents we, not the state, are responsible for our children’s education….until we understand that owning a home is not a right... it’s something we do when we can afford it… then this mess will continue.

Responsibility…..silly, silly word!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

$24 Million Later....

I’ve been in the middle of home renovations for what seems like forever. New hardwood floors, new appliances, updated furniture, etc. We get one room halfway cleaned up, and it’s time to tear another one down not to mention the decisions on color, fabric, and window treatments. I don’t do well in that type of situation…it takes me to long because I like so many things.

Two things I haven’t thought of during our renovation is making our home smaller and actually removing the plumbing….totally. I mean, I’m five weeks out from having intestinal surgery. Believe me, I have issues in that area.

Why on earth would anyone want to remove their indoor plumbing?

Check out my latest post over at American Presidents Blog for the answer.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

13: Another Side to John Wilkes Booth

When I throw out the name John Wlkes Booth what comes to mind? The end of Lincoln’s hopes for a kind Reconstruction, assassin, actor, murderer, Confederate sympathizer, member of the anti-immigration Know Nothing party, located in a barn, died on a porch, and maybe you even know he was thought of as one of the handsomest men in America in the 1860s.

But what about the romantic Booth? Did anyone have his heart?

Someone most certainly did.

1. In 1864, he exchanged photos and letters with 16 year old Isabel Sumner from Boston Massachusetts. He gave Isabel a ring, set with a pearl, which was inscribed "J.W.B. to I.S." When Booth was sick in New York Isabel sent him flowers. It seems the romance was short-lived, and there is no evidence it lasted beyond the summer of 1864.

2. Sometime in late 1864 or early 1865, Booth entered into a serious romance with Lucy Lambert Hale, daughter of John Parker Hale, a Senator with abolitionist leanings from New Hampshire. However, an American Heritage article states that Lucy began receiving anonymous notes from Booth as early as Valentines’ Day, 1862. Lucy had been pursued by several men including Oliver Wendell Holmes. An image of Lucy is seen below.

3. In January,1865, the paths of Ms. Hale and Mr. Booth crossed when they both found themselves residing in the National Hotel in Washington D.C.

4. Ms. Hale and her father were making preparations to move to Spain as the Senator had been attempting to get President Lincoln to appoint him as minister to Spain.

5. By March, Hale and Booth were secretly engaged. They were often seen together in the National Hotel and there were reports of them kissing and touching, The Senator, Lucy’s father, denied any connection between Lucy and Booth when inquiries were made. In fact, many historians report that Senator Hale hoped to unite his daughter in marriage with Robert Todd, President Lincoln’s son.

6. The young lovers’ behavior was quite scandalous since Lucy Hale was the daughter of one of the nation’s best known Senators. A liason was beneficial for Booth because Lucy could give him access to many movers and shakers of the time.

7. Much as been made throughout historical accounts of those days leading up to Lincoln’s assassination including the fact that Booth attended Lincoln’s Second Inaugural on March 4th. What many don’t realize is Booth attended as the invited guest of Lucy Hale. Many historical resources quote Booth’s good friend, Samuel Knapp Chester relating that Booth said of the ceremony, “What an excellent chance I had to kill the President, if I had wished, on inauguration day!” Booth can be seen in the picture below. Find him in the image below...top row….right of center.

8. President Lincoln appointed Senator John P. Hale to the position of American Ambassador to Spain. Hale instantly accepted the position since after 20 years as New Hampshire’s senator he had lost his re-election bid. He also saw how moving to Spain would be just what he needed to seperate Booth and his daughter.

9. Many detailed histories of the events leading up to the assasssination of Lincoln state that Lucy Hale and John Wilkes Booth were seen in conversation at the National Hotel at the same time her father was meeting with the President.

10. It was that very night that President Lincoln attended the performance of “My American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater and Booth carried out his assassination plot.

11. After shooting the President Booth leaped to the stage shouting “Sic semper tyrannis” breaking his leg along the way. Still, Booth is able to get away from the theater unaccosted.

12. When Booth was finally apprehended he had a picture of Lucy Lambert Hale in his chest pocket.

13. …..and what happpened to Lucy? She spent the next five years with her father in Spain and was never questioned regarding her relationship with John Wilkes Booth. She eventually married William Chandler who also served as a New Hampshire Senator.

There is an interesting article regarding Senator Hale by J. Dennis Robinson titled "Hail Hale, the Hype's All Here", and you can learn more about the home of Senator Hale here

You can find other bloggers posting 13 lists here

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wordless: Why Is This Significant?

Yes, I know….you are probably thinking that this isn’t a very good Wednesday image…..You might be wondering what the significance is. I'm certain if I popped this image up on the screen in my classroom someone in the room would tell me, "Well, it's just a page in a book."

Now really....would I put something here that isn’t significant? Would I share something with students that isn't significant?

We are looking at the first source where the term “New England” was first used.

Significant? I think so.

For the next few weeks I’m going to be spotlighting images obtained from the Images of American Politics site, a really great source. You can access it here.

Today is Wordless Wednesday. You can find other bloggers participating by clicking here

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tools of the Trade: Study Guide

When I began teaching one of the first “real world” moments came to me when I met with parents at conference time especially when the student had a “C” or worse in my class. I’d ask parents:

*Has your child been bringing home his/her textbook and reading a little each night?
*Has your child asked for your help regarding the unit vocabulary?
*Have you seen your child’s Social Studies folder?

Invariably the answers would be:

*I thought they couldn’t bring their book home, or…..textbook? What textbook?
*What vocabulary words? You mean his/her spelling words?
*What notebook? You mean his/her Trapper Keeper I picked up at Walmart?

At this point I’d bring out my copy of the state objectives for social studies and I would go over the items students were to master. As of last year our standards are now printed in our textbook so that makes it a bit easier to share with students and parents. Most parents are simply blown away by what their child must know at the fourth grade level....sometimes I am as well.

In Georgia, fourth and fifth graders complete the very same content they will see again in their high school American History course. Fourth graders journey from Native Americans prior to 1500 to 1860…just shy of the Civil War, and fifth graders continue by beginning with the Civil War and on through present day. It can be quite a daunting journey for students and their parents who are not used to the large amount of content, new vocabulary terms, and intricate details. For example, the new standards for third grade contain 10 main standards with 25 elements. The new fourth grade standards show 16 main standards with 42 very detailed elements. From third to fourth students are expected to take a skip, leap, and a very high jump in the amount of content the state of Georgia wishes to cram in little heads. You can view Georgia’s fourth grade standards here, and fifth grade standards here.

For the last several years Georgia Standards in all subject areas have been revamped and then slowly rolled out by subject matter. The 2008-2009 school year is the year Social Studies standards are being rolled out. Realistically there is nothing new for me and my fourth and fifth grade colleagues other than the stopping and starting points involving the Civil War (I have always taught the Civil War since I began teaching fourth grade). The other main difference with these “new” standards is a few things have been deleted or worded a bit different. For example, in the old standards I was to make sure students knew about the Native Americans groups in South America….Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas. Now that standard is gone, yet magically these native groups appear from the fog to become the nemesis of various Spanish conquistadors.

Getting back to my study guide I knew early on in my teaching that I had to provide something for parents to use as tool. I also needed a tool to help students get an overview regarding what we would be studying for the unit, and I found that the study guide could serve to help me as well. By providing the study guide I indicate I’m willing to help, willing to provide more information, and I’m there for parents. Once I’ve “taught” parents to look for the study guide many of the phone calls, notes in their child’s agenda book, and emails cease because the study guide has everything a student and parent needs in order to be successful with the content.

The image I’ve placed here with this post is a typical study guide for one of my units. If you click on it you will get a much larger image. I’m also reproducing the text for you below if you would like to cut and paste.

Over the years I’ve had to tweak my study guides depending upon vocabulary changes, a new textbook adoption, and even due to the lesson plan format requirements my school system metes out. This particular study guides goes along with the Learning Focused theories hawked by Max Thompson….notice I have an over-arching essential question for the entire unit and further down a set of key questions that also serve as the various lesson questions.

Essential Question: What was the Age of Exploration, and what effect did it have on the Americas?

Following the essential question are the standard elements for the particular topic. I think it is important for students and parents to know exactly what is expected. Students cannot hit a target unless they are shown where the target is. Reading through the standards I’m sure you understand that nine and ten year olds would not understand the language. This is why I generally spend the time following a unit test handing out the new study guides, and I go over it in depth with the kids. We find the verbs in each standard….describe, explain. We discuss various words in the standards such as reasons, obstacles, and accomplishments to determine if we know what they are and so on through each and every standard. Sometimes I have students write a clue word or words out to the side of each standard to job their memory. Here are the standards as they appear on my study guide:

Standards: Students should be able to:

*Describe the reasons for, obstacles to, and accomplishments of the Spanish, French, and English explorations including the explorations of Cabot, Balboa, Ponce de Leon, Columbus, Hudson, and Cartier.

*Describe examples of cooperation and conflict between Europeans and Native Americans

*Describe how the early explorers adapted, or failed to adapt to various physical environments in which they traveled.

*Explain how the physical geography of each colony helped determine economic activities practiced therein

*Describe opportunity costs and their relationship to decision making across time (such as decisions to send expeditions to the New World).

The next two sections of the study guide are fairly simple…..I provide students with a date for their unit test, and I provide the textbook pages. The page numbers help the parents out more than the students. Students cannot go home and say they forgot or more importantly cannot tell their parents I didn’t tell them. My rear end is covered because parents know I always give a study guide at the beginning of a unit…..come Hell or high water. Here are the test and textbook sections:

Final Unit Test: The unit test will be given on Wednesday, November 1st.

Textbook: This unit of study is presented in the following pages of our textbook: 84-119.

As I stated before the key questions serve as my lesson questions for the unit. This study guide indicates six questions so I have at least six lessons in the unit. This doesn’t mean my unit is six days. Lessons can last two, three, four, even a whole sometimes depending on the content. Sometimes I allow the content itself to drive the number of lessons or the lesson question. Sometimes our text does this. Notice the sixth question involving latitude and longitude. This is a skill students should know, and it happens to be a lesson included in our text so in this instance the text drove my decision to add the question/lesson. Notice how I explain a little about the key questions. Students should be able to answer these questions following a lesson. The purpose of the lessson is to find the answer to question. I begin the lesson by identifying the question, and I close the lesson by revisiting the question and we look at possible answers. Here are the key questions:

Key Questions: The following questions will help students review the information presented during the unit of study. Answers can be located in the textbook or class notes:
1. How did early European, African, and Asians trade?
2. What new technological advances led to the discovery of North and South America?
3. Who were the early explorers in North America and what did they discover?
4. What was the effect of continued exploration in North and South America?
5. What types of people lived in New Spain and what kinds of lives did they lead?
6. How can lines of latitude and longitude help us locate places on Earth?

The final section of the study guide is for vocabulary. Notice I have divided it by lesson and have seperated the words into columns. I also provide some hints regarding where definitions can be found. While many of these words are in the text I often have words that aren’t. Students have to resort to using their all important notebook which I teach is the most important tool they have for learning. When we go over the study guide I say each and every vocabulary word and then ask students to repeat them after me. This particular activity is usually fun as I try to use proper pronuciation of the Spanish and Portuguese names. We all usually resort to fits of giggles as the kids try to pronounce the names like I do. Some are really intently serious about it. Students usually ask to go over the names one more time.

Here is the vocabulary section (I only included the first column of words….you can refer to the image for the rest):

Vocabulary: You should be able to identify the following terms in multiple choice format. Students can locate the words in their textbook or class notes as we progress through the unit. Vocabulary flashcards for each word including definitions and illustrations are due on test day.

lesson 1
Mansa Musa
Marco Polo
Kublai Khan
the Silk Road
Zheng He

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Creating Standards as You Go and a Moment of Mirth

The Georgia Carnival is flying high once again over at Georgia on My Mind. Check out the first entry over there…..my young friend Ethan is upset that Georgia Educrats had all summer to tweak his grade level’s math standards yet the new school year finds him with unfinished standards and no textbook. Grrr……I have to ask...what did they do for 8 weeks? Math doesn't change that much? They couldn't get a simple set of grade level standards in place over an 8 week period? There is a bright ray of sunshine for Ethan….he has a teacher with some real credentials....it's just a shame that it's now getting to the middle of September and the teacher doesn't really know what he should be teaching in October.

And now for some weekend mirth (and boy do I need some.....):

It seems everyday we have more and more reasons to bemoan educational progress therefore a little humor goes along way. Several days ago I received the following in an email from my cousin. She said she thought me when she read it and I can understand why…….true the story involves a school setting, but the title and the subject matter also involves me since I had my youngest child at home in the presence of three midwives.

….and before you ask…..yes, it was a planned birth. :)

Now, on to a bit of mirth titled Middle Wife which is apparently the product of a 2nd grade teacher somewhere in the United States:

I've been teaching now for about fifteen years. I have two kids myself,
but the best birth story I know is the one I saw in my own second-grade classroom a few years back.

When I was a kid, I loved Show-and-Tell. So I always have a few sessions with my students. It helps them get over shyness and usually, Show-and-Tell is pretty tame, Kids bring in pet turtles, model Airplanes, pictures of fish they catch, stuff like that.

And I never, ever place any boundaries or limitations on them. If they want to lug it in to school and talk about it, they're welcome.

Well, one day this little girl, Erica, a very bright, very outgoing kid, takes her turn and waddles up to the front of the class with a pillow stuffed under her sweater.

She holds up a snapshot of an infant. 'This is Luke, my baby brother, And I'm going to tell you about his birthday.'

'First, Mom and Dad made him as a symbol of their love, and then Dad put a seed in my Mom's stomach, and Luke grew in there. He ate for nine months through an umbrella cord.'

She's standing there with her hands on the pillow, and I'm trying not to laugh and wishing I had my camcorder with me. The kids are watching her in amazement!

'Then, about two Saturdays ago, my Mom starts saying and going, 'Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh!' Erica puts a hand behind her back and groans. 'She walked around the house for, like an hour, 'Oh, oh, oh!' Now this kid is doing a hysterical duck walk and groaning.

'My Dad called the middle wife. She delivers babies, but she doesn't have a sign on the car like the Domino's man. They got my Mom to lie down in bed like this.' Then Erica lies down with her back against the wall.

'And then, pop! My Mom had this bag of water she kept in there in case he got thirsty, and it just blew up and spilled all over the bed, like psshhheew!' This kid has her legs spread with her little hands miming water flowing away. It was too much!

'Then the middle wife starts saying 'push, push,' and 'breathe, breathe! They started counting, but never even got past ten.

Then, all of a sudden, out comes my brother. He was covered in yucky stuff that they all said it was from Mom's play-center, so there must be A LOT of toys inside there.'

Then Erica stood up, took a big theatrical bow and returned to her seat. I'm sure I applauded the loudest.

Ever since then, when it's Show-and-Tell day, I bring my camcorder, just in case another 'Middle Wife' comes along.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11th: Other Sites

When you visit Arlington National Cemetery and have a goal in mind of visiting the Kennedy graves and Arlington House you don't really realize how much of a climb the trek is. It starts off rather innocently and after you get to the Kennedy grave site you realize you are hiking up, up, up. I knew that from Arlington House I would be afforded great views of Washington D.C., however, when I turned to the right I was so surprised to see the Pentagon in my camera's viewfinder. Of course, it made sense when I thought about it. I made sure I snapped a view of the Pentagon as it is seen from the very pinnacle of the Arlington property.

I wanted to share this image with you today because when we remember September 11th we tend to head off to New York instantly.......The Pentagon is a site of remembrance on Patriot's Day as well.

My September 11th memory can be found here. Other posts regarding terrorisim and other visions of 9/11 are here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More Campaign Ads

Back in February during the height of the Presidential Primary process I created an article with several campaign ads and discussed a method to engage students in a method of comparing and contrasting ads.

Within the last few days both of the ads I present here today have appeared in my email box via friends. Both ads were created by private inviduals and both are powerful messages in their own right concerning Iraq.

The first message is pro McCain….make sure you stay with the video until the very end. The message was created by the young man seen in the video.

This ad favors Obama and was created by a group of San Diego State students as an assignment. As with the first ad stay with it until the end.....make sure you view the series of Iraq images.

I’ve recreated here from the original post in February the process I use with students to compare and contrast ads. In the next several days we will be bombarded with tons of quips, barps, mini-messages, and all-holds-barred commercials touting one candidate over another. Perhaps we all need to go through the same process my students have done in order to keep it real and not let these messages cloud the issues.

Here’s the process:

First using Ease History we begin by looking at campaign ads from the past. As we watch them we categorize the ads into the following categories----biographical, issue-oriented, values-laden, and negative. These terms come from a lesson plan at the website found here.

Once we have looked at several examples for each category I divide the class into groups. Each student receives a work sheet with the following questions (taken from this page):

Group Members:
Candidate in Ad:

1. How would you categorize your ad? (biographical, issue-oriented, value-laden, or negative)

2. Describe the language and tone of the ad? Is the narrator a male, female, or the candidate? Does the ad specify an action for the viewer (i.e. to elect the candidate, to visit the candidate’s website, to vote against the opponent)? How do language and tone shape the overall message?

3. How do words, images, color, music, camera angles, lighting, people, and symbols contribute to the message of the ad? Do you think they are effective?

4. Did this ad influence you? Did you learn from it? How did it appeal to you? How would you change it to make it more effective?During our look at past campaign ads I also provide opportunities for students to answer the questions they will encounter during the group portion of the activity so that once they are are on their own they are familiar with the direction I’m trying to take them.

This activity meets several of Georgia’s standards for Language Arts as well as Social Studies.So, now it’s time for me to hold your feet to the fire. It’s your turn…Which one appeals to you, if you dare. :)

Related Content: Comparing and Contrasting Campaign Ads

Monday, September 08, 2008

Seen Here, There and Everywhere

I guess one of the advantages of being at home for awhile is that I can finally get caught up with emails and visiting my favorite blogs. I’ve found some interesting things:

Over at the AHA Blog (American Historical Association) reading list was published that included some interesting things—a link to a dicussion regarding the argument comparing academic resources and Wikipedia, a link to a site where you can compare the topography of Washington D.C. from 1791 to today, and for a little chuckle you can read how The Book of Secrets has made it home again to the Library of Congress

Mark Grimsley over at Blog Them Out of the Stone Age has reviewed the book
The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat by Earl J. Hess. Grimsley states, “No kidding. If you think of yourself as a serious student of military history, this is one book you need to read—sooner rather than later.”

Via Chris Wehner at Blog 4 History I found this cool site called (formMy Year of Living Rangerously formally Volunteer in the Park). Mannie, the Ranger, works at the Antietam Battlefield site and he has posted The Sunken Road in 55mm….a recreation of The Bloody Lane, September 17, 1862.

JL Bell from Boston, 1775 is doing some great research on Declaration of Independence signer Richard Stockton comparing and contrast primary and secondary sources.

Kevin Levin over at Civil War Memory is once again writing about myth and memory and how they relate to actual events in Southern Heritage and Me. Kevin states, “No doubt, I am often perceived as an outsider whose purpose is to denigrate the people of the South and Southern Heritage. The outright attacks and/or suspicion, however, have only added to my curiosity about the blurred relationship between history and memory as well as the importance that people and certain organizations place on maintaining and defending certain views of the past.”….. “The interesting question, however, is when those modes of remembrance distort the past and serve to fuel our own contemporary values, interests, and insecurities. In other words, at what point do we leave the realm of history and enter the world of mythology and story-telling, and is it possible to achieve a healthy balance between the two? “……”It's not that I am challenging or questioning Southern heritage, it's that I am looking into or questioning one among any number of ways of remembering the past.”

As a Southerner myself I find it often difficult to write about my ancestors or other historical figures and relate their Confederate beliefs without coming myself as as supporter or making it into some romantic mythological tale. It is a fine tightrope I walk in that instance.

Finally, I posted a new entry over at The American Presidents Blog concerning Jimmy Carter and some of the challenges he had to overcome during the 1976 Presidential Campaign.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Disease of Washington D.C.

Way back in June, 2007 I visited Mississippi and toured the home of James A. Quitman of “Halls of Montezuma” fame. Pictures from Quitman’s home, Monmouth, can be seen here while you can learn more about Quitman’s service to his county here. While I don’t agree with many of Quitman’s views I found it tragic that his service to his country ended earlier than it should. In my post I wrote:

Quitman’s work came to an end tragically after attending a dinner for James Buchanan. Poison was suspected after several men fell ill. Quitman lingered for sometime, but eventually died from what some state was National Hotel Disease. What’s that? Ah, another story for another time.

Perhaps now that both political parties have had their convention and running mates have been secured it is time to tell the story and revisit the climate of Washington D.C. in the past and in the present…..

In her book titled Reveille in Washington 1860-1865, Margaret Leech sets the stage on the eve of Buchanan’s inauguration which was held on March 4, 1857. She states:

….the city of Washington was a southern town, without the picturesqueness, but with the indolence, the disorder and the want of sanitation…Fish and oyster peddlers cried their wares and tooted their horns on the corners. Flocks of geese waddled on [Pennsylvania] Avenue, and hogs, of every size and color, roamed at large, making their muddy wallows on Capitol Hill…People emptied their slops and refuse in the gutters, and threw dead domestic animals in the canal. Most of the population still depended on the questionable water supply afforded by the wells and by the springs in the hills behind the city. Privies, in the absence of adequate sewage disposal, were plentiful in yards and dirty alleys....

Andrew Dickson White, a U.S. Diplomat, author, educator, and co-founder of Cornell University wrote in 1896 of our nation’s capitol:

The general impression made upon me at Washington was discouraging. It drove out from my mind the last lingering desire to take any part in politics. The whole life there was repulsive to me, and when I reflected that a stay of a few years in that forlorn, decaying, reeking city was the goal of political ambition, the whole thing seemed to me utterly worthless.

I visited Washington D.C. in May of this year, and while I did not find the physical city of Washington in the dire straights Leech relates, the aura of the town reeked of the sticky mud found at the spot which serves as middle ground for the give and take of a tug-of-war. It was so thick in the air you could cut the tension with a knife.

I can certainly agreee with Mr. White.

Why in the hell would anyone want to get into the political pool?

But, before I go down that road of why we should volunteer to run for political office I want to visit the National Hotel part of the story…….

The National Hotel sat at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 6th Street. It was one of the city’s largest hotels. During the 1830s and 1840s, the hotel was known as Gadsby’s. For some reason by the 1850s it was the meet and greet place popular with Southerners who flocked to Washington to take place in the slavery debate during the 1850s…perhaps they served a mean bowl of grits…….I’m not sure.

Think back over the last two weeks and how the presidential nominees arrived at the convention hall a bit early to be on hand following the acceptance speech of their vice presidential nominees. When James Buchanan was nominated by the Democrats for the 1856 election he wasn’t even in the county……this actually made him attractive in that he had not sullied his hands with the struggle during the Kansas-Nebraska debate. Buchanan was in England when he was nominated on the 17th ballot. He didn’t want to run, but accepted the nomination as his cross to bear.

Buchanan won the election over the first Republican candidate for president, John C. Fremont. Though Buchanan was not born a Southerner he was as historian Kenneth Stamp (America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink) relates….a consummate “doughface”….meaning he was northern man with southern principles.

The nation was taking sides and doing so rapidly. Viewing Buchanan’s actions today and through our 21st Century eyes it can be said he simply didn’t get the political realities of the time. When he discussed the problem of slavery he returned time and time again to the Constitution (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), but the North wouldn’t hear of any Constitutional arguments that favored the South, and he could not grasp the fact that sectionalism had taken hold and altered exisiting political parties. The Democrats had split in two….the Whig Party was no more….and the Republicans were still testing their legs.

While the Democrats argued that they had been poisoned by abolitionists a more sane reason for the outbreak has to do with the unsanitary conditions at the National Hotel and in the city of Washington itself. Many sources states the winter that year was particularly frigid and the hotel plumbing had frozen leading to a backup of sewage that overflowed and contaminated the hotel’s kitchen. Another theory suggested rats had drowned in the hotel’s cooking water.

President Buchanan held that secession was illegal, but if a war was fought over secession it would be illegal as well. Therefore…..he did nothing and his non-action is remembered as the worst single failure by a United States President.

At the pre-inauguration event held at the National Hotel many men had gathered to have dinner and make speeches with President-elect Buchanan. Many of those in attendance were Southerners. Afterwards a virulent strain of Dysentery broke out among many of the attendees including Buchanan.

Once the outbreak was realized the Southerners cried that a plot was afoot managed by the Republicans and their abolitionist friends to wipe out Democrats. Many of the stricken guests remained sick for months and even years. Several died. President Buchanan spent the first six weeks of his presidency in bed. Some of those who died were Mississippi Congressman, John Quitman (I referred to at the beginning of this post), Pennsylvania Congressman, John Gallagher Montgomery, and New Hampshire Senator John Parker Hale.

So, how does all of this relate to today’s Washington? As I stated before the hygiene of Washington is much better today, but the political climate?

It oozes of sickness on both sides of the aisle. I’m tired of the discussions, I’m tired of the finger-pointing, and I’m tired of the “got-chas”. I want my government to protect this nation, I want my government to stay out of my life as much as possible, I want campaign reform including getting a handle on the the various folks who lobby for a living, I want to keep more of my money meaning less pork, and I’m tried of attempting to solve every problem in American society by creating a governmental program.

While it will be nice to finally reach that finish line of voting day in November I fear the tug-of-war will not be over until the common man….you, me, and that guy over there standing on the corner rises up and tells those entrenched in our nation’s capitol to go home....but why would we want to do that? That would mean we would get involved, we would take responsibility, we would then have ownership of the problem.
Perhaps that is what this country needs.
The picture presented at the beginning of this post was taken during Buchanan's inauguration and is considered to be the first photograph of a presidential swearing-in.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

13: A Teacher's Throne

I worry when I travel about a school building and continually see a teacher sitting behind her desk. Don’t get me wrong…..there are times when a teacher needs to write a note to a parent, speak privately with a student, or complete an item of paperwork during the day, and it simply cannot wait. But day after day, week after week, I worry when I see a fellow teacher sitting behind his or her desk no matter the time of day.

I agree with many administrators that feel a teacher’s place is out and about among the students. Teaching is not listing an assignment on the board at the beginning of class and then taking a seat on our throne.

However, a teacher’s desk…..even though I rarely sit behind mine….is the hub-center of any well run classroom. It is the spot I head to during class changes. I stand behind my desk and take a quick check over my notes for the day, things that must be done by 3:30, and other important “stuff”.

Here are 13 things I can’t do without on my desk in no particular order:

1. Pictures of my family and former students---On the left front corner of my desk are pictures of my husband, my children, my mother, and a few scattered about of former students. Behind my desk is a bookshelf with more pictures scattered about including each homeroom group I’ve taught. Looking upon the pictures has always helped me to keep my priorities in line and at some of my lowest times has helped to motivate and inpire me.

2. Bell---I have a little tap bell that you usually see on the counter of a business like a drycleaners on my desk. When I’m ready to begin class I simply tap the bell and the sound alerts students that EHT is ready to begin. I tap the bell and begin…..I DON’T tap the bell and wait for quiet….I DON’T tap the bell and ask for quiet. As a class we have already decided the bell IS the signal.

3. Timer---I keep it on my desk mainly to protect it from playful hands, but my timer is used in testing situations and various activities. I don’t invest a bunch of money in fancy timers----kitchen timers work and aren’t costly.

4. Drink/coaster---Students learn early on that Elementaryhistoryteacher has to have a drink whether it’s a bottle of water or fountain coke I’ve picked up on the way to school. In fact many students offer to go get me a Coke as they arrive first thing in the morning since I’m in a much better mood after I’ve had a sip of Coke. :) A good coaster for a drink is key so that it doesn’t prespire all over my papers.

5. Papers to grade/return---Every teacher has to have a system for grading. I take up papers and keep them separate by class group with a paper clip. I put them inside the back cover of my Agenda/PlanBook since I know that item goes home with me each an every night no matter what. When I unpack in the morning I pull out graded papers and place them at the front of the room with my lesson plan, so that simply by seeing them I remember to hand the papers out at the beginning of class. I usually have a helper for the day during each class period…..they know to look for papers to return and by the time I’m ready to begin class students already have them in their hands. Then I just remind them to place the papers in the appropriate place in their folders.

6. Place for “must do today” items---Every day of the school year includes items that must be done that particular day…A head-count for a t-shirt order, a parent note that must be responded to, a book order that must be finalized and turned into the office, etc. Those items are always front and center on my desk and lay on top of my open Agenda/PlanBook….sometimes papercliped to the page for that day. I know by the end of the day those items must be completed and sent on their way to wherever.

7. Agenda/PlanBook----My school system provides me with a spiral bound book that contains a calendar, a teacher’s plan book, grade book pages, phone log, etc. I use it and I’m grateful for it. It’s nice to have everything together in one book.

8. Favorite types of pens/pencils---Isn’t it more fun to do your work when you have the type of pens, pencils, and erasers that motivate you? My personal favorite is black gel pens, but I never keep them stored on top of my desk. I store them in a drawer. When they are seen on top it is too easy for me to allow a student to borrow them and then….then they merely walk out my door never to be seen again. I do have a cache of pencils and pens for student use…..I keep them in a bucket near the front of the room.

9. Staple remover and Stapler---Again I make sure students know my desk stapler and remover is off limits for their use. I keep two staplers for student use at the front of the room along with a student hole-punch as well. Why? Because students tend to be a little rough and something is always on the fritz.

10. Letter opener---just a personal choice. I can’t stand torn envelopes and jibbles of paper hanging about.

11. Thank-you, get well, blank cards for colleagues, parents and always a few that are appropriate for students----when a fellow teacher is feeling low, you need to send a thank you to a parent, or a little “way to go” to a student it is so easy to reach down into my bottom drawer and pull out the type of card I need.

12. A plant----Plants dress a desk up a bit, but I tend to go towards silk so I don’t have to remember to water them plus students knock them off from time to time and dirt won’t get everywhere. I also have a small American flag on my desk at all times as well.

13. “Get to this later” pile----this is a pile of stuff that I run across through the mail or reaches me when someone hands it to me. Perhaps one scrap of paper has an idea on it for a field trip or lesson activity idea….perhaps the paper has info on it about a really great piece of technology….perhaps it’s a lesson plan someone wants me to look over or it’s an activity. I try to clean this pile out once a week, at the end of a term, and at the end of the year, however, there are still items in this pile that have been there since my first week of teaching. :)

So, that’s how my throne checks out….What about yours?

Lots of bloggers participate in Thursday 13. You can locate them here

Carnival Information......

The latest editions are out!

You can find the History Carnival at Osprey Publishing, the Education Carnival at Lead From the Start, and I posted the Georgia Carnival over at Georgia on My Mind last Friday. The Georgia Carnival isn’t just a collection of postings concerning the state of Georgia….there’s always a wide range of topics there from national politics to art, to an interview with an ice road trucker.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wordless: Jenny the Elephant

When I was a little girl and would walk through the gate at the Atlanta Zoo I always wanted to head to the elephant exhibit first. They were my favorite animal. Due to the nature of my curriculum I have never been able to lead a field trip to the zoo, but I have gone along on my fair share of trips with my own children and their classrooms as a chaperone. The kids always enjoyed visiting with Starla, the Elephant. She could hold a paint brush in her trunk and painted several masterpieces each day. The children were entralled.

Today, the Atlanta Zoo is one of the most premiere facilities in the United States, but as the zoo’s own website states, in 1984, a series of highly publicized events belied deteriorating conditions at the Zoo, prompting Parade Magazine to label the institution as one of the top 10 worst in the nation. A subsequent investigation lost the Zoo its accreditation, and an outraged public demanded that the facility be closed. Mayor Andrew Young appointed an emergency crisis team. In support of a new vision for the Zoo, Young appointed Dr. Terry Maple as interim director. The team set out to address immediate issues, beginning with reducing the collection in order to provide more appropriate living spaces for the animals.

Since it is 2008 you would think all of our nation’s zoos are up to speed regarding animal facilities, but apparently some are not including the Dallas Zoo. My blog friend NYCEducator posted a video and some information yesterday about Jenny, the Elephant and how comedian Lilly Tomlin has been speaking out about Jenny’s living conditions.

It seems some folks want Jenny to live out her final days in Tennessee at an elephant sanctuary while just a few days ago the zoo decided to upgrade the elephant facility and keep Jenny where she is.

Situations like these beg for use in the classroom. Students could research the problem and obtain the various points of view before arriving at their own. This activity hits on activism, citizen responsibility, research, letter writing, analysis, etc.

Here are some links if you want to get involved:

The mayor’s email address tom.leppert@dallascityhall.com
News stories here and here regarding the zoo’s decision to keep Jenny.
an article regarding Lilly Tomlin's involvement and a blog article that attempts to stay with the facts

Other bloggers are participating with Wordless Wednesday today. You can find them here

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Classroom Notebooks Revisited

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article regarding a letter I send home prior to midterm grades, and I usually send something like it again before the end of each term as well. A couple of readers had questions so I decided to revisit the whole thing.

Teachermom asked…I have one question - what kinds of things/sections do the students have in their notebooks?

I’m so glad you asked me Teachermom! I could have sworn when I posted the article that I had previously written an article regarding my notebook guidelines, but for some reason I didn’t link to it. Yesterday I did some research and found the article from August, 2006 titled Keeping a Notebook: Elementaryhistoryteacher Style.

This article should answer your questions though I believe I should also post a walk-through lesson where I have students writing notes. I’ll try to get to that soon. :) If you use notes and a classroom notebook in your classroom, I encourage you to read the article.

My great blog friend, Polski3, also had a few questions regarding the grading process for the notebooks. He asked, What are the elements of the notebook grading rubric? Just a few to consider: Is it complete? neat? Did the student follow instructions? Is it completed on time? Is there evidence that the student is using their notebook as a learning tool?

The image I’ve provided with this article is one example of a very informal rubric I’ve used with much success. I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible so it’s quick and painless for me. I also want it to be as simple as possible for students to use if they grade each other as I mentioned in the article. Click on the image and you can see a larger version and read the grading elements.

One question Polski3 had did give me pause……..Is there evidence that the student is using their notebook as a learning tool? Not always. Just because the student passes the end-of-unit-test it doesn’t necessarily mean he/she utilized his/her notes. However, at various points during class I attempt to reinforce for students the fact that they do have a very valuable tool at their fingertips. For example, when I attempt to connect mastered material with new information I might ask a series of review questions. It is very easy for me to walk over to the posted table of contents in my room and wonder aloud, “Hmmmm….I wonder where that answer might be in my notebook?” Suddenly there is a flurry of folder pages being turned and poured over. I also encourage students to utilize their notebook first before turning to the textbook when completing crossword puzzles and other review activities.

Monday, September 01, 2008

So, Where Ya Been EHT?

I’m home.


It has been a harrowing ten days in the hospital…an unexepected stay.

Thirteen days ago from seemingly nowhere I began to have severe pain in my abdomen. Pain that came in waves reminiscent to labor pains. Being the strong, stubborn woman I am I attempted to heal myself and summed it all up to the fact that many forty-something year old women tend to do…..”Oh, it must be The Change.”


I finally had had enough on the third day and decided to visit my doctor. My insurance provider then sent me on on wonderful travel tour of Atlanta as I had to visit first one office and then another in order to have this test and then another to determine the source of my discomfort. I tell you it isn’t easy to navigate Atlanta traffic lying prone in the passenger seat of your vehicle……it makes it very hard to help Dear Hubby drive...a habit of mine that drives him batty.

Finally, with a set of ultrasound results in hand I visited my internist only to hear her say some parts of my innards were still invisible and I would have to trek to north Atlanta to have yet another test…..a CT Scan…at yet another wonderful facility my insurance company owns.

I couldn’t believe it. Another pain-filled ride through another rush hour….my second such ride that day…..I didn’t think I could endure it. It was crazy.

“Dear Doctor,” I said as I made a direction point with my finger, “there’s a fine hospital right on the next corner, and you’re telling me I have to drive an hour for a test….and then I might have to drive again to the hospital my insurance company wants me to be at?”

She confirmed. I’d had enough. I should have gone to the emergency room to begin with with, but…..I was trying----trying----trying to play the insurance game, so when payment time came there would be no problems.

Dear Hubby and I high-tailed it to the ER on the corner….Dear Doctor had called ahead, gave me my assortment of test results, and we didn’t wait long at all. Within minutes I had an ER doctor, an IV feeding me some sort of wonderful drug called Newbaine, and the CT scan was completed.

Then enter my medical savior…..a fine young man with a face any mother would love. Man, these doctors resemble teenagers these days, don't they? Where are all the old codgers of my youth? Young Doctor Man wanted to enter my body and complete a Laparoscopy to see what exactly was going on in my innards. Dear Hubby and I consented and suddenly there was a flurry of events. While the surgery nurses were trying to get together items to prep me for an unexepected Friday evening operation and asking me hundreds of questions, I was racking my brain regarding the many things that Dear Hubby needed to do.

Then I was removing my rings for Dear Hubby to keep. Reciting a quick “to-do” list…calls to our children….our parents, our pastor, friends and other family.

A rushed good-bye kiss, and then I remember nothing until I woke up in recovery.

A one hour look-see turned into a four hour major surgery.

I can only imagine what Dear Hubby went through as he sat in the waiting room. It had been too late in the evening for our parents to travel, but two couples from church along with a pastor showed up to wait with him.

For the last ten days I’ve been in a Morphine induced trance recovering from the removal of a tumor in my Colin, removal of approximately one foot of my intestines, removal of my Appendix, and the removal of an ovary…..a complete Hysterectomy now waits in the wings.

….and I get You just thought Elementaryhistoryteacher was just being a bit lazy with the blogs. :) Never......ever. They have been on my mind. My trusty laptop even visited the hospital and had been in the bed with me for the last three days.

I even managed.....somehow....to get the Georgia Carnival up, but I don't know how. Morphine and blogging just don't seem to go together that well, ya know?

….and BTW…..those of you that put those doctor visits off and don’t go for your screenings as you should….please, please, please make those appointments this week. :) It's much better to ride that Insurance roller coaster going here and there when you are well instead of when you are in acute pain.

At least now I have several days in the future to devote to history blogginess.....my loss is your gain....hmmmmmm.....maybe it's my gain as well. :)