Tag Archives: Teaching History

This Day in History 12/28: The Birth of Commercial Motion Pictures

With all the hype of the holiday films this year, it’s good to see what really started all this in the first place.

On December 28, 1895, Auguste and Louis Lumiere, two early French filmmakers, gave a for-profit exhibition of their works in Paris.  Their total runtime: about 6 minutes for 10 films average less than a minute each.  We’re not talking epic filmmaking, but rather small snippets of everyday life: a train, a family eating, a gardener, builders, etc. 

Though they did not invent motion pictures, the Lumieres were the first to exhibit their work for a price, thus beginning the modern motion picture industry.  Attached is a selection of their early works that were shown in 1895.  If you show them to students, a few points to remember:

(1) There was no soundtrack, originally.  Turn down the volume to get the same effect.

(2) The next big motion picture moment was the Edison company’s 1901 “epic” The Great Train Robbery.  It was considered “too long” at 11 minutes.

(3) The audiences would shit in their pants, literally, at seeing these images.  Ask your students the last time a film made them empty their colon.

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The Pain of Remembering 9/11

Most of the tragic events of 9/11 occurred within my eyesight, even from a far distance.

I had to walk down to the Brooklyn Bridge, joining the exodus of ash-covered humanity to the only rail terminal that was working in Brooklyn.  I watched cartoons all night, trying desperately to avoid even looking at the news footage.

So imagine my raw senses when I’m teaching classes about 9/11 today.  Many were small children when it happened. How can I use a chart or some damn educational fad from Teachers College about this?  How dare these inhuman morons make me even rehash the events of that day.  Where the hell were they? 

Yet these kids had to know.  They wanted to know.  I would be a disgrace as a teacher if I didn’t share my experience.  At that moment, it was better to just tell my story.  I did, narrating every second of that day.  It happened over and over, in many classes for many students.  In some rooms, you could hear a pin drop.  That’s the power of oral history.

My advice on this solemn day–sometimes its best to heave that plan book out the window.  Shut the fuck up and let the witnesses tell the story.  I assure you, they’ll never forget it.

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Some Housekeeping and some Link highlights

It’s about the time to clean up around here, and the Neighborhood is no exception.

The piles of materials, lesson plans, maps, flash drives of every denomination–all of it to be cataloged, categorized, and stored.  Our online community is also undergoing a thorough scrubdown: no need for those pesky ant traps and rat droppings around here.  While I was cleaning, I found a number of useful websites and blogs that deserve attention.  Please let them know Mr. D referred you.

  • The National History Education Clearinghouse was recently brought to my attention by Julie Bell, and just in time.   A project funded by the U.S. Department of Education and created by The Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University and the History Education Group at Stanford University, the NHEC is building itself as THE one-stop warehouse for all K-12 history educators, providing everything from content, lectures, lessons, online resources and media.  A must-see site.  Mr. D is ORDERING the Neighborhood to stop by this site, on pain of arse whupping by yours truly.
  • Local NYC teachers can check out our local Teaching American History site for a ton of resources–and its growing.  TAH is a program run through the US Department of Education designed to improve the teaching of our history in public schools.  My TAH grant, in district 12, is in conjunction with Lehman College and the Gilder-Lehrmann Institute of American History.  I’m a proud alumnus of this program, as well as many of my colleagues.
  • My TAH classmate Deven Black, the powerhouse special ed. teacher with the thunderous rolling bass, blogs at Education on the Plate.  He has had quite a roller coaster year, and his blog spares no detail about the trials and tribulations of a teacher giving his all.  Deven is not only a dedicated teacher, but a true Renaissance man with a dizzying intellect. 
  • When I plan, Thinkfinity is definitely my “42 Toss Power Trap”, my bread-and-butter play.  A creation of the Verizon Foundation, Thinkfinity is a more teacher-friendly warehouse where teachers can search by content, grade and type of resource.  Great to use in a pinch.
  • History is Elementary is another blog by a history teacher.  Here the similarities end.  First of all, there’s less cursing on “H is E” than on the Neighborhood.  Second, it features a ridiculously detailed site index that features every little subject imaginable in history.  She even covers the Dorr Rebellion in 1842 in a recent post.  The fucking Dorr Rebellion!  That little known rebellion in Rhode Island that led to universal male suffrage in the state.  Now that’s dedication!
  • Jonathan at JD2718 is a lot of things–just look at his introduction page if you don’t believe me.  Primarily, though, he’s a NYC math teacher with a great blog about high schools, math and math games, as well as teacher concerns and complaints.  His infamous “Do Not Apply” list–a list of schools that are so teacher-hostile that they don’t deserve your resume–is definitely worth seeing.  He also featured the Neighborhood in a post earlier this year. 
  • I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Corey Bunje Bower’s Thoughts on Education Policy.  Corey started with Mr. D as a Teaching Fellow–two lunkheaded ne’er-do-wells entering the vocation.  He then decided that he wasn’t punished enough, and went to pursue a doctorate in education policy at Vanderbilt.  TEP is his blog detailing his insights into education, particularly through a statistician’s eye.  His analysis is often more detailed than the average Joe really needs, but Corey proves his points.  Let’s hope he finds time to keep it up. 

Have fun with these links, and if there’s a great blog or page that might be missing, please let me know.

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