The new year is barely underway, but one major part of my life this school year is about to come to a close: my 20th century world history course.
I teach on a trimester system, so technically the course won’t end until around Valentine’s Day, but we finished content this last week because the students wrap things up with a major documentary project. I entered the new years prepping lessons for a final week of topics, and now I’m finalizing a final exam they’ll take on Thursday and Friday. After that, they piece together a documentary they’ve spent all year working on, and before we know it, we’ll all be done.
Teaching 20th century world history is one of my favorite things I’ve gotten to do in my career. In grad school, I started out studying women’s history and US History, then branched out because world history sounded cool and why not. When I took my teaching job, they told me they wanted me to teach the 20th century world history course because I had expertise in world history and more specifically in the 20th century.
But it’s one thing to know 20th century American history really, really well, and another thing to know 20th century world history. This is what’s made teaching a lot of fun, because I’ve gotten to keep learning the last six and a half years. Slowly, I’ve developed a strong foundation of 20th century world history even as I’ve learned just how little I know.
A few years ago, I got to move on to teaching our honors version of the course, what we call “accelerated”. While the course moves a bit faster than our non-accelerated version, it’s the writing that makes all the difference. The classes are smaller, and all the students enrolled have elected to be there; most will go on to take AP US History and just really love geeking out over history like I do. It makes for a phenomenal teaching experience.
Last summer, I spent a lot of time tweaking the course. It’s my third time teaching it, but only my second consecutive time. On the heels of everything I learned last year, I was eager to make things better, to really adapt the course to make it mine rather than going with what was there from prior use.
It’s been a really great course experience. I could go on and on about what we teach and how it all fits together (and I did, in my first draft of this post). And seriously, if that interests you, hit me up on Twitter and I’m happy to tell you more.
But this is the moment where I get to be happy, proud, and sad at the same time. I’m happy and proud because it’s been such a great course experience. I feel pretty satisfied with the way I built the course this year and how it all ran. Not everything went the way I envisioned, but as it comes to its end, I think it went well, and I’m proud of the things I did to make it the course it became.
I’m sad because I’m about to lose three classes of great students. I’ll keep some of them in the third trimester elective most of them move on to, but the schedule changes and all the classes shuffle, so we’re all in for a lot of new excitement in mid-February. This will also be fun, and I really enjoy THAT course as well (Accelerated Atlantic World History) – but I’m not quite ready for it yet.
Finally, I’m sad because this is the last time this course will ever be taught in this way. Don’t worry – we’re not getting rid of 20th century world history – but we are redesigning our entire 5th through 12th grade history curriculum, and the course as it exists today is disappearing. While that makes me sad, I’m also having a great time designing the new (freshman!) 20th century world history course with two of my colleagues, and I’m excited to kick off students’ high school careers next year by taking them into one of my favorite time periods to study.
So there’s the silver lining, I guess. Things aren’t ending, they’re just regenerating. And that’s always a heck of a fun ride.