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Senior Experience: Education

By Toni Harr '13

When I tell people I am a social studies education POE, often I get blank stares. People ask why I would want to study history because it is boring, and there are too many facts to learn. I must admit that all of the history faculty members have awed me with their academic prowess; they can just rattle off dates, facts, people, and biographical details. As an undergrad, that can be a little intimidating, especially when planning to be a teacher myself.

Remembering dates and specific details have never really been my thing, but there is more to history than just remembering what has happened in the past. Still, as a teacher, there are moments where keen recollection is required, and I was terrified of not knowing the right things to say.

At this point I am glad to say that part of my fear was irrational. I neglected the sheer amount it takes to produce lessons; before teaching, one must be aware of, know how to apply, rephrase, break down, and extrapolate the material for students to understand. To teach is more than to just know, and I neglected how much immersion I would have with the material I taught my students. After I looked at this material for hours, I had it memorized and engrained into my brain…surprise! I even impressed myself a time or two when answering student question.

Even when all the answers are not as clear, they can be used as teaching points. If I rattled off an incorrect date, I told the students that I was testing to see if they read their text, and also told them not to trust everything teachers say, especially if it sounds wrong. To prove my point, I tricked them into banning water through effective propaganda. Teachers are an important resource for students, but are after all humans (albeit with super capabilities) and not computers. Sometimes they make mistakes. Looking up information for later is never a bad thing; knowing how to find it is more important.

I am honored to be educated by such an intelligent history department (and other Juniata College faculty); it is evident that every person pours tremendous effort into lesson preparation and is devoted to his or her students. Despite their academic successes, they do not know everything, but are able to get the answers they need and encourage their students to do the same. I have been encouraged and inspired to follow through with my curiosities throughout my studies, and I hope I can motivate my future students to do the same.

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