Running with students.

5:30 am

I’m sitting in a hotel room in St. Charles, IL, just outside Chicago and I’m about to do a hard thing: run a marathon.

This exists to chronicle the challenges of leveling the playing field for poor students in my history courses, so running may seem far afield. Even so, it feels dishonest to not note something so prominent in my life. On runs I craft lessons, puzzle out how to reach students, despair and revel in recent classes, and sometimes just forget I teach and mind the glory of the state of Minnesota.

Perhaps the most important intersection between my running and my students is the strength I draw from them. So many faces challenges far beyond those I’ve faced, or challenges I faced with 15 years more experience. Running a marathon is not easy, but for many of my students, life is harder. It’s harder for the recovering heroin addict who shared his recovery story with me in the fall of 2009 when I came to Normandale. It’s harder for the student of mine who works overnight-shifts at a factory so she can send money home to her father in E. Africa. It’s harder for my student who is 19 and raising a child alone. Their stories are theirs and I don’t wish to co-opt that power, but I will run on it. I run inspired by a decade of students, every one with a story.

I need to run now. I do not run alone.

Safe home.

On incivility in the face of failure (@neatline, @omeka)

I’m trying to use Omeka and Neatline to help my students think about history as something we make, not that we receive. Omeka and the plugin Neatline make hosting online exhibits fairly easy, and hugely easier than coding your own CMS with a GPS interface.

Still, there are things that aren’t obvious, especially to a neophyte. There’s a bunch of technical rubbish that amounts to one-part niggling user interface quibble and one part shame of the “my students need to learn 21st century skills and I’m failing them” variety that erupted in some Beetle Bailey cursing on twitter today. That was low on my part.

Neatline and Omeka twitter handlers kindly declined to #@$% back, which makes them the better people and better educators.

And I learned a lesson in what some of my students must feel when having reviewed all the documentation I’ve given them, they still can’t get something to work.

Humbling, but I’m going to fail this lesson fast and get back to teaching.

Safe home.