I made this one just under the wire. With an April 1 postmark, my application for the Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute will be evaluated for the 2019 summer institute in Fort Ticonderoga, New York. Ethan Allen and (the pre-traitorous) Benedict Arnold captured this fort in May of 1775, and Henry Knox acquired the all-important cannons from the fort in November of the same year, transporting them for continental use in the Revolution. One of the requirements of the application is an essay to answer many points. My offering follows:
By robbing children of relevant historical discussions, we blur our nation’s founding principles. Yet, tomorrow’s leaders enter my classroom ignorant of their own history. In today’s educational world, history is often relegated to dusty corners. While students search to apply lessons of the past, history too often remains hidden. I pull back the curtain on history for my fourth grade students, bringing it to the forefront in our unique classroom.
This year’s topic at Fort Ticonderoga’s teacher institute intrigues me. Since last summer’s institute at Mount Vernon I have studied more about George Washington’s role in the French and Indian War until I have “medium” knowledge about it. Additionally, I attended the celebration of Washington’s Presidential Library’s fifth anniversary, sponsored by Mount Vernon, but held at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. Harry Truman’s experiences in World War I captivated my interests, although I have low experience with the subject.
We get a magical feeling when we observe and handle primary materials from history. One of my strengths is recreating that excitement for history in my students, causing them to yearn for more. As historians, my students collaboratively struggle with material and process. They actively participate in civilized discussions and disagreements. They draw conclusions based on physical and inferential evidence. They are jubilant only when they respectfully dig into difficult topics to successfully unearth innovative solutions. They gather information, learn from failure, and build systems to serve future generations.
Being allowed to stand on the gravel at Fort Ticonderoga, imagine the knock on a door to take the fort, and shut my eyes and envision cannon being removed by Henry Knox can only enhance those magical feelings for both me and for my students. Observing real artifacts from the era and seeing the view from the walls of the fort will fill us with enchantment and help us understand the connections we still have with “the old French fort”. I can only imagine the creative ideas I can build after experiencing it so extensively in this summer’s teacher institute.
My administrators and peers will attest to the fact that my relationships with students are strong. I believe in inspiring my students to want to know more and to make connections with every aspect of their school day. That certainly must include the history of our nation and of the world. I already lead lessons and activities with my personal experiences with the 1995 terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City, where I taught four miles from the blast, and from the 2011 EF5 tornado that ravaged our hometown and school building in Joplin, Missouri, using objects and stories to bring those more recent aspects of history to life.
I am self-motivated in my own professional development and forward planning, constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to enhance my teaching, spending countless summer hours doing so, every year, documenting and journaling on my website along the way. Now I want to pepper some activities with materials from America’s Fort. If I can “tease” students by teaching them that the French and Indian War is the real first world war, they will be motivated to dig into history more and more on their own.
I want to partner with Fort Ticonderoga for this quest.