Zachary Cote teaches middle school (8th grade) history at Stella Middle Charter Academy in Los Angeles. This weekend he will be writing for The Way of Improvement Leads Home from Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Denver. –JF
As a middle school teacher in urban Los Angeles, I am inundated with education strategies and research and am often surrounded by the urban education culture. Now, to be clear, I chose this. However, when not specifically preparing for lessons or classroom management strategies, I find a home in the historian’s realm. Recently a colleague of mine said to me, “I could teach anything. I’m a teacher who just happens to teach history.” I responded, “Well, I am a historian who teaches.” I cannot see myself teaching anything else. I thus often miss the academic days of my college years and try to keep up with my field by reading historical journals, blogs and books. The Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association, to say the least, has been sort of a homecoming.
When I sit in panels and listen to historian’s dialogue and debate I think to myself, “I am at Intellectual Disneyland.” I feel almost as if like I have left the city for the day and traveled to the rural areas of California about an hour north from Los Angeles where I am rejuvenated through a deep breath of that fresh air. The AHA conference is that breath of fresh air. My lungs and head are clearing, and I am reminded of the joys of the discipline of history. For those like me, historians at heart who feel called to the classroom, I want to encourage you: Do whatever you can to attend an AHA annual meeting. It replenishes your intellectual cup, it refreshes your historical mind, and it fuels your educator’s heart to use the past to inspire our future.