Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lexington & Concord: Blood Spilled Between Brothers/Enemies

The Revolutionary War was a bloody conflict between men who had once been loyal to the same government. Over time, they had grown apart until it seemed as if they were not even speaking the same language. The truth is that they did speak the same language. But while they used the same words, those words started to have different meanings to the men and women on either side of the wide Atlantic Ocean.

If I were to teach based on passages from Robert A. Gross's The Minutemen and Their World, I might choose the following passages and propose prompts that required the following analysis:

The search-and-destroy operation was largely conducted with restraint – perhaps because British officers, appalled by the break-down of discipline and by the bloodshed at Lexington common, were determined to avoid further incidents. In the town center an officer demanded admission to Timothy Wheeler’s storehouse, where numerous casks of provincial flour lay. Wheeler readily let them in. Playing the ever-cooperative country bumpkin, Wheeler put his hands on one of his own barrels and explained, “This is my flour, I am a miller, Sir. Yonder stands my mill. I get my living by it… this… is my flour; this is my wheat; this is my rye; this is mine.” “Well,” he was told, “we do not injure private property.” Many Regulars were equally conscientious when they entered private homes. Famished after their long night’s march, they asked for refreshments and generally insisted on paying their hosts. Colonel Barrett’s wife, Rebecca, at first refused compensation: “We are commanded to feed our enemies.” But when the British officers threw money into her lap, she sourly accepted it. “This is the price of blood,” she said. (pg 121)

This demonstrates a tense camaraderie between the British and Americans. They came from societies with similar traditions, rituals, ethics, and even values. Although they felt as if their values had drifted farther and farther apart by the time the encounter in Concord occurred. Two examples from this excerpt are striking to me. Wheeler, the miller, demonstrates a keen knowledge of the value of private property to Americans and British citizens alike. He knew that his clear expression of ownership through work would be meaningful to the soldiers who had entered his place of business. If the British and Americans did not both hold private property dear, his polite but firm statement might not have been received so cordially. Rebecca Barrett serves “the enemy” in her home and initially refuses compensation. While Americans and British felt worlds apart, they were all Christians who subscribed to Christian values such as “feed our enemies.”

At the same time, there were clear differences between the values of the British and Americans, as demonstrated in this next excerpt.

The fighting grew fiercer and bloodier after the Redcoats left Concord. This was war as provincial Indian fighters had long known it: every man for himself. To the British accustomed to open field fighting, it was the action of “rascals” and “concealed villains,” as one put it, “making the cowardly disposition… to murder us all.” (pg 129)

While the British Redcoats viewed the Americans’ tactics as cowardly and villainous, the Americans had only been trained that way due to their fighting and sacrifice, in the name of the British Crown, in the French and Indian War in the two decades prior. Good solid fighting from a few years earlier constituted murderous acts as the British retreated from Concord.

There are more passages from the book that could certainly be used in the analysis, but in the interest of integrating primary sources as well, students should be directed to two broadsides available online:

Students can note the use of the black coffins as an image of death and murder. The same image was used in newspapers and other published accounts after the Boston Massacre as a way of inflaming American sentiment against the British. Also, the use of words like “bloody” and “runaway fight” seem to cast the Regulars as villains and the Minutemen as horoes.

The reader must acknowledge the use of the word “circumstantial” insinuates that this particular account of the events at Lexington and Concord is the most accurate and truthful. Also, the fact that the author chose to call it an “Attack… on his Majesty’s Troops” presumes that the British Regulars were the cause of the conflict. In fact, the title goes on to specifically blame “a Number of the People of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.”

Taken together, both scholarly and primary accounts indicate the two following conclusions about the people involved in the incidents at Lexington and Concord:

  • They were Christians who subscribed to essential values such as charity and generosity, and the importance of work ethic and earned property.
  • As the British and Americans economies and social structure developed through the 17th and 18th Centuries, they understood each other less and less.


Gross, Robert A. The Minutemen and Their World (American Century). New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.
“Bloody Butchery, by the British Troops: or, The Runaway Fight of the Regulars” (1775). TeachUsUSHistory.org: The American Revolution. http://www.teachushistory.org/Revolution/ps-bloody.htm (Accessed November 16, 2010).
“A Circumstantial Account of an Attack that Happened on the 19th of April 1775, on His Majesty’s Troops” (1775), TeachUsUSHistory.org: The American Revolution. http://www.teachushistory.org/Revolution/ps-account.htm (Accessed November 16, 2010).

Please Note: This reflection was completed as part of the author's participation in the History Connected program. Please see the History Connected Wiki or the History Connected Official Website for information on the federal grant that provided the opportunity.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wordle One-Upped: I Tagxedo-ed My Blog

Upon the suggestion of a friend and colleague who commented on a previous post, I went beyond Wordle and "Tagxedo-ed" my blog!

Thanks Danja (a.k.a. @MagistraM on Twitter or read her blog, Magistra's Musings)

I like the newest large word: LEARNING! Now that one makes me happy.

What makes Tagxedo better than Wordle?

  1. You can decide design the word cloud color scheme, word font, cloud shape, file size, and more!
  2. You don't have to create an account and you can add a bunch of words or put in the URL of a blog or website.
  3. There is a cool part of the website called "101" that has 101 ways to use Tagxedo. I can think of at least 20 off the top of my head, but even if you aren't a teacher it is a great tool!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Wordled my Blog!

Wordle is an easy-to-use tool that can help teachers and students analyze primary source documents, poems, blogs, or anything else that contains text. I have used it with my students before, but a video blog that Howie DiBlasi tweeted this morning reminded me to check it out again.

This is how Wordle works:
Once you enter the text, Wordle creates a word cloud that makes the words used most often appear more prominently. I thought I would Wordle this blog, to see if I am truly addressing the topics I set out to address when I started it: history, politics, and technology in the high school classroom.

I have to admit that I was pretty happy with the results:

Wordle: KerryHawk02's Thoughs on Education 11-4-10
Click here for a larger view.

The Results that Made Me Happy
  • students: The fact that "students" is the largest word means that I use that word the most. It also means that it seems to be the primary focus of most of my posts. This thrilled me because it means that I truly have followed through on my goal of putting students first and considering how my use of technology and methods of teaching history and politics will affect them and their learning.
  • content: I use this word often when discussing the history that I teach day in and day out in the classroom. So the relatively large size of the word pleased me because it means I spend a decent amount of time considering history as well.
  • questions & think: These two words help define the purpose of my blog. I hope to consider my students' questions and ask my own questions through my writing. Publishing these questions to the world helps me further define these questions and maybe come to some answers. I wouldn't be able to do it without all of your comments, so thank YOU to my readers!
  • technology & tool(s): These two words are also relatively large, but not as large as I would have thought. Upon further consideration, I think this might actually be a good thing. After all, when teaching with technology, it isn't about the tools themselves. Rather, the emphasis should be on how the tools and technology help the students learn.

The Results that Surprised Me

  • names: There are several names of presenters and education technology leaders who I have had the opportunity to meet at conferences recently and have subsequently written about in my blog. I hope Darren Kuropatwa and Brad Ovenell-Carter know how much their ideas have inspired me and my teaching!
  • get & use: I was surprised that these words were so large. Obviously it indicates that I utilize them often. Was I talking about "getting" and "using" information, online applications, or just getting tired? I'll have to go back and do more reading.
  • political language: It surprised me that words like "Democrats", "Republicans", "Conservatives", and "Liberals" were so small. I hope to spend more time posting about elections, voters, and politics over the coming weeks and months.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Great Questions

Teachers often complain that students are only driven by physical needs and their shallow desire to bring their GPA to the highest number possible. We want our students to have their physical needs met before they enter our classroom, so they are ready to embark on the 1 hour adventure we have planned for them. We want our students to be excited to learn the content, because we are passionate about teaching it. As a result, we sometimes tire of calling on a student who has raised his/her hand only to hear questions like:
  • Can I go to the bathroom?
  • Can I get a drink?
  • Does this count?
  • How much is this worth?
  • I left my binder/homework/book/calculator/sweatshirt/fill-in-appropriate-item-here in my locker. Can I go get it?
  • I was out yesterday. Did I miss anything?
In an effort to lift my own spirits and remind myself of the natural curiosity my students have, I decided to sit down and write some of the great questions I have heard lately. Here are some examples of great questions my students have asked me recently:
  • What is the difference between raw materials and natural resources?
  • I know we are studying the Commercial Revolution, but I have heard that we are in the Information Revolution. When do you think that started, Mrs. Gallagher?
  • Why were the Africans willing to sell their own people to the slave traders?
  • Why do they call it [the journey of slaves on crowded ships from Africa across the Atlantic Ociean to the Americas] the Middle Passage?
  • If slaves outnumbered their owners, why didn't they just kill all the owners?
  • What is it like to get typhus or smallpox? How come we don't hear about people getting those anymore?
  • Are the Liberals and Conservatives from the 1800s like Liberals and Conservatives today?
  • Are arches considered neo-classical or gothic architecture?
  • How is it possible to get the most votes but not the majority?

These are just the questions I thought of in the 10 or 15 minutes I took out of my preparation period today to type up this post. I'm sure the rest of you have many more examples from your own classes. What great questions have your students asked you lately?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Restoring Sanity... in the Public School Classroom

I have been reading some of the bloggers' reactions to John Stewart's rally in Washington D.C. this past weekend. Stewart always adds quite a bit of humor to his liberal-leaning presentation of the news. He was joined at the rally by his dubious conservative counterpart on Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert.

Here is a short clip of the opening festivities:

While the introduction is comical, it is delivered with intelligence and sharpness that have made Stewart a success. This is exactly what young Americans who are still interested in politics, despite the anger and mediocrity with which the talking heads deliver it to us on network news, are searching for. Despite the stereotyping, young Americans do not require everything to be entertaining (well, maybe some of them do). The larger point is that the political parties that run the elections and government have become farther and farther apart, leaving most young Americans standing in the middle trying to decide between two somewhat ridiculous options:
  • The Republicans would have us believe that we should be angry, really furious, about the economy, high unemployment and taxes. According to the Republicans we should blame our situation on the Obama Administration and the Democrats. Therefore, we must vote for a republican candidate in the midterm elections tomorrow.
  • The Democrats would have us believe that every problem that exists in the United States of America can be blamed on the Bush Administration and the Republicans. Since, according to the Democrats, their actions from 2000-2008 are the root of all evil, we must vote for only democratic candidates tomorrow.

What about the rest of us?

What do the voters think... I mean on their OWN, not based on what the parties tell them to think through unending mailings, emails, and campaign tv and radio advertisments?

What about FUTURE voters?

Tomorrow, I plan to ask my students

  • What they think about how the campaigns in our state have played out?
  • What campaign ads do they think help voters decide? Which don't help at all? We might even watch a few on YouTube.
  • What messages are candidates sending? What messages should they be sending?
  • If they could vote, who would they vote for governor? or for congressman?
  • How should voters make their decisions before checking a box or filling in a bubble inside a voting booth?

Those of you who are reading this and are parents or teachers or just citizens who know teenagers, I beg you to have a similar discussion. They are future voters. They see all the same media that we do. They need to tools to filter all of it and then make an educated decision based on how THEY think and feel, not based on how the media TELLS THEM to think and feel.