I think I know where this is going.

by I.A. Isherwood

It’s been a month since I started this blog as a pedagogical tool for my class on the First World War. In my first post, I indicated that I wasn’t sure where things were going, but that I hoped to use the blog as a type of ship’s log, where I write about the things we are discussing and maybe a bit about my own research. I am now pretty convinced that this is the right approach for this type of medium. So, tentatively, I think I know where this blog is going. And I like writing it. Here’s why.

  • When I first walked into a college classroom as an instructor, way back like eight years ago, I would have probably never have considered writing a blog about teaching. It would have seemed a bit too vulnerable to admit in a public forum what is obvious: that sometimes we get things right and have really good days in the classroom and sometimes we completely biff our lessons and everyone suffers. Since I am recording what I do in the classroom, this blog has made me think about how I teach, how I study and learn, and why I do what I do (at all). My role models as teachers were people who always tried new things and who convinced us, by their enthusiasm and commitment to learning, that they were students of their subject first and teachers of it second. So I’m trying to be like them.
  • So this blog is my way of trying to be a better teacher/scholar/writer by simply babbling about things. I believe that we become better writers by actually writing. I believe that we become clearer thinkers through writing. Blogs are one of the best tools we have for reaching a broad audience with our thoughts. In the last three years I have worked with Gettysburg College students on our CWI blog, The Gettysburg Compiler. As our blog has developed, I have seen the real benefit it has had on our students. They write more informally on the blog than they do in their research papers and engage really complex issues of both the historical past and the way history impacts our present. They continue to impress me with their writing and it has shown me the value in using a blog as a forum for learning and public engagement.
  • Finally, I think this blog has been really beneficial in terms of my own research. As I have been teaching this class, I have also been writing a book, and the blog has helped me keep grounded in the ‘big picture’ of my subject as I write. So as the blog continues, I might write a little more about my research or interesting ideas that I am coming across. I hope you don’t mind.

Reflection over. On Monday we are discussing Sassoon’s Memoirs of an Infantry Officer. Has anyone out there read it? Have a reflection on the book or a good question for students to ponder?