Today was one of those days that I live for as a historian and teacher. I spent the day in Virginia Beach with a group of 4th and 5th grade teachers as part of a workshop on the Civil War and historical memory. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Fitz Brundage sketch out some of the salient commemorative themes during the postwar period while I worked with the group on analyzing a collection of primary sources and discussing how to approach some of these themes in the classroom. The teachers were enthusiastic throughout both sessions. It was impressive given that the material can be incredibly difficult and even a bit draining to those who are approaching these issues for the first time. We have amazing teachers in our classrooms and we need to support them.
The president was right to describe teachers as “nation builders.” I wish the general public had the image of teachers sitting around engaged in serious discussion as part of their professional development rather than the stereotypical views so closely associated with our worst fears about public education. So, what were we really doing today in Virginia Beach? We were doing what we do every day in our respective classrooms, which is making a G-d Damn Difference. Now what about you?