“And don’t forget your flashdrive”

College classroom 3

Do you have an on-campus interview coming up?  Most likely you will be required to teach a class.  History teaching guru Kevin Gannon, aka @thetattooedprof, offers some tips as you prepare your demonstration.

Here is a taste:

Plan to use more than one teaching method in your demonstration, just as you would in your own classroom practice. Straight lecture for 50 minutes might demonstrate your command of the material, but it’s not going to engage the students or search-committee members in the audience. Conversely, devoting the entire session to, say, group work without providing any scaffolding or context for the material might also produce suboptimal results — you might have an engaging, interactive style, but the substance won’t necessarily be there.

If you’re not sure how to navigate this question of balance, talk to the more-experienced practitioners in your department. Their experiences might help you clarify your own thoughts about the task in front of you.

Ideally, the search committee and/or a departmental representative will share enough information and suggestions to make your planning process relatively easy. If not, though, don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions. An email — with wording like “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to teach a sample class for your department. As I plan the session, I was wondering if I could get a little more information about …” — is a perfectly acceptable step to take.

The teaching demo may be a different scenario from what you were prepared to encounter on the job market, but it’s an opportunity to make an extended and thorough case for your potential value to a department. If you’re in the fortunate position to be planning a teaching talk for a campus interview, I wish you the best of luck.

Read the entire piece here.  And check out our interview with Gannon in Episode 26 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

On Book Exhibits and World War II Material Culture (#AHA19)

Megan Jones of The Pingry School offers one more post from the floor of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago.  In this post, Megan reflects on her last day of the conference with a nod to the book exhibit and a panel on visual culture and the end of World War II. (Read all of Megan’s posts here).  Enjoy!  –JF

The book exhibit is one of the best parts of an academic conference, particularly for someone who does not have the time to keep up with book reviews in academic journals. A scholar browsing the exhibit hall for new titles is like a child perusing a candy store, and the feeling of ecstatic curiosity is probably about the same. Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) had a great GIF of the wizard from Disney’s “Fantasia” to represent his analysis of historians in book exhibits. I spent about two hours walking through the hall. Here’s a screenshot of my camera roll showing the books I found particularly appealing:

megan pics

I’m going to (hopefully) be teaching a course on American environmentalism, Atlantic World and modern European revolutions, and Modern World History in the future, so my selection is fairly broad. I even persuaded a few publishing reps to send me free samples. Score.

The best panel I attended on Day 3 was session #173, “Visualizing Victory, Visualizing Defeat: The Material Culture of Occupation in the Wake of World War II.” Two PhD candidates at the University of Wisconsin-Madison gave fascinating talks on the afterlives of visual artifacts in the postwar period. Abigail Lewis discussed the various uses and changing meaning of photographs taken by French photographers during the Vichy regime. These images depicted a relatively happy and peaceful France under Nazi occupation, which can be best explained by the fact that only photographers who agreed to abide by Nazi rules could obtain material with which to actually shoot photos. These images were used after the end of WWII to depict occupation in a blockbuster show at the Grand Palais in 1946, and also during a 2008 retrospective.  Jennifer Gramer spoke about German war art and the confiscation of such work by the American Captain Gordon Gilkey with the Roberts Commission, and the choices made to determine which art was deemed potentially capable of inciting violence in the future.

Both Lewis and Gramer discussed how the images and works they studied had different meaning for the French and Germans depending on the time under consideration. Both also questioned how the meaning of images changes depending on the context – should we look at an image divorced from its historical context and deem it “artistic” as in the case of German war art, some of which is objectively beautiful and clearly drawn by a talented artist? Do the images taken by French photographers indicate their complicity with the Vichy regime, or were they subversively collaborating with the idea that their images would serve as a documentary record for posterity? Who gets to determine the meaning of an image? The questions Lewis and Gramer posed, which I am probably doing no justice to, speak to a broader question of who owns history and who has the right to interpret historical artifacts.

Thanks, Megan!

Episode 26 Will Drop This Weekend


Episode 26 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast will drop this weekend.  You can find it here or at your favorite podcatcher, including ITunes, Stitcher, and Player FM.

In this episode we will return to an old staple of the podcast:  teaching history.  Our guest is Kevin Gannon, aka, “The Tattooed Prof,” who runs the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and teaches American history at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.

If you are a history teacher, or know a history teacher, feel free to share the episode.  It is a good one!  Our conversation focuses on Gannon’s “Teaching Manifesto,” the subject of his forthcoming book.

We continue to be excited about Season 4.


The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast: Season 4 Update

Mug in Florida

TWOILH Podcast mugs show up everywhere–even post Irma Florida!

Things are really shaping up for Season 4 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.  Last week we dropped our first episode of Season 4.  Author Kelly J. Baker joined us to talk about white supremacy, race, the KKK, and Charlottesville.  Our next episode (#26) will drop this weekend.  Our guest is history pedagogy guru Kevin Gannon, aka “The Tattooed Professor.” Stay tuned. It’s a great conversation about teaching history.

In the past week we have booked more excellent guests, including two National Book Award finalists.  Stay tuned.  This is going to be a great season.

We hope you will consider listening to the podcast, telling your friends about us, downloading episodes, and writing a review at your favorite podcatcher.  And for those who want to go a step further, I hope you will consider joining our support team.  Head over to our Patreon page to learn more and help us to bring responsible historical inquiry to the general public.  Our goal is to have enough funding to go weekly!

Last week I was in Indianapolis for a conference and ran into two of our patrons: Brenda Schoolfield (pictured below) and Matt Lakemacher.  It was great to meet them face-to-face.