Teaching Well

The Brooks faculty received this from our Dean of Faculty. It is a nice piece he ascertained from a journal on teaching. There is a great deal of merit to this. And, I found it to be a great reminder on thinking more about the learning process than the teaching process; we frequently think in terms of teaching and learning; however, maybe we should focus on learning and teaching. I am not much of a lesson planner; I read a great deal as I delve into my academic scholarship as a means of driving my teaching. Hence, teaching is a science; it is a process that requires constant reflection.

“What do great teachers do differently?” ask Jodi Newton (Stamford University/ Birmingham, AL) and Betty Winches (Homewood, AL Schools) in this article in Reading Improvement. Their study of elementary- and middle-school teachers who produced significant gains in student learning for three consecutive years yielded the following insights:
• Highly effective teachers have clear learning targets and their students understand what it takes to get better and own their learning. These teachers focus on ultimate learning outcomes more than compliance with required assignments.
• They create a culture of redemption. They assess frequently and see students’ mistakes as a road map to improvement.
• They constantly and frequently tweak their lessons in response to how students are doing. Students’ learning needs are more important than lesson plans.
• They ask questions that go to the heart of the subject and teach students to pose their own questions. “They are able to track misunderstandings and then clarify them for their students,” say Newton and Winches. “As students learn to ask the right questions – those related to their learning targets – they begin to own the goals and maximize their learning.”
• They create a culture of high expectations coupled with good relationships. These are not friendships but partnerships (You and me, in this together) focused on academic achievement. “This tenacity, concern, and love for each student are obvious, yet are linked directly to unyielding aspirations for each student,” say Newton and Winches.

“How to Maximize Learning for All Students” by Jodi Newton and Betty Winches in Reading Improvement, Summer 2013 (Vol. 50, p. 71-74), no e-link available

Leave a comment

Filed under Teaching

Staying Busy

In my paper for the Christian Scholars’ Conference (CSC) titled “Racial Reflection and Sexual Identity: The Challenges of Silence in Conservative Institutions”, I revisited WEB Du Bois’s “Souls of Black Folk,” particularly his essay “Of the Faith of the Fathers“. If you have not read this classic, you must. Focus on how each essay brings you back to the notion of the Veil.

Over the course of my three-week spring break, I have focused a great deal on my own academic scholarship. Hence, this break has been an equal amount of play and work. I sent one paper off to a journal which was returned due to an imbalance of historical content and pedagogical application. I have pretty much added the missing pedagogical work to the already historical analysis. I have yet to resend. That needs to happen soon seeing that I need to get back to the paper for the CSC. I am feeling very productive of late. And, having this time to think and write has been nice.

Leave a comment

Filed under Academic Life, Journals, Research, spring break

My New African-American Studies Course

I presented this course syllabus to my amazing department chair for next year. I am not shocked by her endorsement and full support. I have spent a great deal of time doing the necessary research to make this course happen. Below is a draft proposed syllabus I presented to her; I will edit and address more specifics later about the daily approaches and readings. Because this is a full-blown seminar course, students will drive each meeting. Hence, there will be assigned discussion leaders, peer sessions, and unique focus settings empowering me in ways that my AP courses do not allow. Further, with my content knowledge and expertise in designing courses, I will be able to take students to levels they have yet to journey.

African-American Studies
Course Syllabus

Instructor: Edward Carson
History Department

Contact Information
Office: (978) 725-6300 ext. 4858 (Link building 306)
E-Mail: ecarson@brooksschool.org

My website: http://professorcarson.weebly.com/

Student Recommendation: 5th and 6th Formers

Course Description

The African American experience spans almost 400 years in the annals of world history. The dawn of the European arrival in Africa to the advent of forced migration across the Atlantic amidst the trepidation of the most noted middle passage is only the start of the African American journey towards political, social, and cultural emancipation. This course looks at the early stages of this journey, in which African Americans will endure slavery, Jim Crow, and full citizenship by the 1960s. In addition, the course addresses the impact this narrative had on the emergence of African American religion, literature, poetry, music, art, dance, food, and science. Works by Ralph Ellison, Countee Culleen, Toni Morrison, and “Nikki” Giovanni, Angela Davis, and Tupac Shakur are a few of the works that are studied. Conversations regarding the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the rise of “black as beautiful” during the 1960s allow students to critique the changes witnessed for African-Americans. This course is a hybrid of the study of English literature, religion, race, history, and film studies, and includes a field trip to the African-American History Museum in Boston.

Course Components
Instructional Method: African-American Studies is a seminar course in which daily discussions involving the analysis of primary and secondary readings, as well as the viewing and listening of African-American film and music. Success in the course is predicated on the student’s ability to engage in the discussions and offer independent thought to the conversation.

Exams, Papers, and Participation: There are two take-home exams per semester. Exams are intended to measure growing knowledge of historical, sociological, and anthropological themes addressed in the course. Students engage in a case study, examining an aspect of their life in which the dynamics of African-American culture is a featured construct of racism, gender, sexuality, and class.

Two 5 – 7 page papers — 15%
Independent case study — 15%
Take-home Midterm — 25%
Take-home Semester Final — 25%
Participation & — 20%
Oral Presentations

Required Readings

1. When and Where I Enter by Paula Giddings
2. There is a River by Vincent Harding
3. Introduction to African-American Studies by Talmadge Anderson
4. Native Son by Richard Wright
5. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Course Outline

I. African Heritage and the Slave Trade
II. The Slave Community: Oppression and Resistance
III. The Free Black Community
IV. Civil War and Reconstruction Period
V. W.E.B Du Bois
VI. The New Negro
VII. Harlem Renaissance
VIII. Great Depression to the Cold War: The Rise of the Communist Negro
IX. Black Folks and the 1950s
X. 1960s and Civil Rights
XI. The Rise of the Cosby Decade
XII. Black Culture and Political Rap
XIII. Changing Black Thought in the Age of Tupac
XIV. Obama and Post-Racial America


Filed under Brooks School, Courses, Teaching

Flipping History

Just a thought: I can see the flipped class model working in a history course such as mine. Though, in many ways, I have done this for years as a Harkness (seminar) style teacher; I never liked being lectured to; we know it gets worst in college. I had a class of 7 once and a teacher who wanted to lecture (ego). I always thought: I read that last night, why show up to class?

I am flirting with the flipped class idea. I found sources online, but it seems like added work for the history student who should be reading. If done well, there are things to help students process and focus on the critical questions; but, I already do this with assigned videos and sources. Maybe it will allow me to delve into greater depth via a video post (really nothing more than a lecture with illustrations). I wonder if this will prepare students to do what they already are doing in my class: Arriving to class ready to engage in activities and discussions. Is it more student work? Will they stop reading? I have spoken to math students that do not like it.

See this link here

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, History, Students, Teaching, Technology

Fox News and the Color of Christ

I really like what Jean Claude Lamarre did in his making of the Color of the Cross. It is a good piece depicting the life of Jesus; in truth, there is only so much one really knows about the life of Christ. Lamarre, like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, focuses around the final days of Christ. And though there is still much conjecture and debate regarding the final days, there is a bit more substance during the final days than say his birth and early childhood. My point here does not include the resurrection — a point of contention.

What disappoints me about this interview is how Sean Hannity ignores the basic premise of what Lamarre is saying: Jesus was a divine human being; and according to Christians, died on the cross for the salvation of their sins. In the process, Jesus suffered greatly. Again, nothing different from Gibson’s Christ. Lamarre, however, presents Christ as a black man. Yet, in this interview, Lamarre again and again states that he is doing nothing different from what other directors have done: Presents what is believed to be an accurate story of the final days of Christ. Fox News and Hannity only saw black Christ. Much like Fox News Megyn Kelly who outraged folks by reminding them that Jesus and Santa could not and were not black, Hannity also focused on the race narrative.

Thus, for decades Christ has been portrayed as Eurocentric. There were few if any arguments about that depiction. But, when an artist presents him as anything but white or Arab, there is a reaction. Might this be a sign of cultural superiority? I recall noted historian Edward Blum discussing in his book The Color of Christ that most black Americans adopted the presentation of a white Christ. After slavery ended, the advent and course of Jim Crow did not detract blacks from their white Jesus. Though I was not churched nor did I take part in Sunday services growing up, I do recall visiting black churches and observing how they prominently displayed images of a white Christ.

It is my understanding, however, that many blacks did not fully adopt a black Christ until the 1960s — roughly around the time of Black Power. Hence, James Cone’s emergence of Black Liberation Theology expressed the power of black folks by, according to Cone:

Express a moral or theological appeal based on a white definition of morality or theology will serve as a detriment to our attainment of black freedom. The only option we blacks have is to fight in every way possible, so that we can create a definition of freedom based on our own history and culture. We must not expect white people to give us freedom. Freedom is not a gift, but a responsibility, and thus must be taken against the will of those who hold us in bondage.

I conclude with this: If race does not matter to the majority, why get upset when the minority creates a piece of art displaying Jesus, but in an image other than what is mainstream? Further, this clip also alludes to the fact that the filmmaker is making too much out of race, when in fact, he is doing what most people have done in the arts: Telling a story. During my last year at Capitol Heights in Montgomery, Alabama, I was in the school play in which I played Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’1843 work, A Christmas Carol.The issue was not race; we had some white people here who could have played the role of Scrooge. The message was the story, not the race of Eddie Carson playing Dickens’ white character. Hence, that is the point missed by Hannity.


Filed under Christianity, Culture, Racism

The Exodus Part I


Exodus 33:14 states: My presence will go with you. And I will give you REST. I will address the religious allegory associated with the Exodus theme and black migration later. Further, I feel that I should point to the problem of a seemingly reliance on this simple theme in historical and religious studies. But for now, I love this document:

In 1917, the Cleveland Advocate published its take on the Exodus of black folks from the South: “There is no mistaking what is going on; it is going on; it is a regular exodus. It is without head, tail, or leadership. Its greatest factor is momentum, and this is increasing, despite amazing efforts on the part of white Southerners to stop it. People are leaving their homes and everything about them, under cover of night, as though they were going on a day’s journey – leaving forever”.

As I told students, that REST did not transpire in a secular sense once migration ended. Black folks would continue to find strength in the church as they had done; however, as I have noted in the paper I will deliver at the Christian Scholars’ Conference this summer, the generational shift brought about a change regarding black folks and the church in the 21st century. My paper starts off with this piece from the Advocate.


Filed under Black People, Racism, Religion

Obama on Russia

I have another thought coming regarding the days of the Cold War. And though I do not blog much about politics here at The Professor anymore, I could not let this point slip away. I must say, however, I did not know Obama made this statement regarding Russia during the campaign march; he should no better. The Cold War never ended; well, the notion of an ideological divide regarding global hegemony has long continued — even during the dark Russian days circa 1991 to 2000.

Leave it to Fox News to remind us of Obama’s poor response during the last election campaign. In Obama’s defense, Mitt should have been smart enough to offer a more decisive response.


Filed under Cold War, Obama, Politics