A Clarification of Values

Today I turned down a wonderful job offer to work as an education director for a museum.  The job would give me the opportunity to develop curricular materials for teachers and students, organize conferences and other workshops around the country, and work with some of the most talented Civil War historians in the country.  Since my interview on Tuesday I’ve been wracking my brains trying to figure out what to do.  I could not have been more impressed with the group that interviewed me; their commitment to educational outreach was solidified for me within the first five minutes.  In short, the job would be both challenging and rewarding. The first thing I said to my wife was that it would be incredibly exciting and enjoyable to work with the individuals who interviewed me.  Veteran readers of this blog know that I’ve been looking to reach out beyond the classroom  and this has led to different projects, including the development of exhibits at Monticello as well as presentations on how to teach the Civil War.  In the coming weeks I will begin a book project with my thesis adviser that will help teachers to better utilize Ken Burns’s Civil War documentary in the classroom. 

As I thought carefully about what to do I kept coming back to the same question.   As much as I viewed this particular change in career as an opportunity I wondered whether it would offer an experience comparable to what I get from teaching.  While I would be working with children of various ages it would not be over time.  My job allows me to build relationships with individuals that often outlast the time in the classroom.  A number of my students have gone on to study history and a few have even become teachers.  What I am most proud of is the the number of students who have said that they didn’t care much for the subject of history until my class.  I consider myself very lucky to have found a profession that allows me to spend time studying my passion, which is American history, as well as working with energetic and curious young adults.  I have complete freedom to shape my courses , including electives, and I am encouraged to take chances in developing curriculum.  On most mornings I wake up bright-eyed and anticipating a fun day.  What I love most is the sense of possibility that the classroom offers and a chance to learn something new during the course of the day.  I work with an incredibly talented and caring faculty and while I rarely get to see how students turn out I know I’ve made a difference for many over the years.  How many people can truly admit to this?

I also don’t mind admitting that I enjoy my summers and other vacations.  No doubt the time off makes it possible for me to engage in research and other writing projects – most of which would take a backseat in lieu of a full-time position.  My graduate degree in history from the University of Richmond was paid for entirely by my school and the administration continues to encourage me to attend conferences and other academic functions.  In many ways I lead a life not much different from a college professor.  All I need is a sabbatical and I am good to go.

In the end I still absolutely love the classroom and so that is where I want to be for the near future.   The nice thing about my situation is that I can continue to reach out in ways that  this job opportunity offered and not have to sacrifice what I value.  Hey, my choice also means I will continue to have time to blog, which I know is a horrifying thought for some.  I am truly a lucky guy. 

Enjoy the Holidays.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

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6 comments… add one
  • Kevin Dec 24, 2007 @ 8:40

    Sara and Larry, — Thanks so much for the kind words. Enjoy the holidays.

  • Larry Cebula Dec 24, 2007 @ 1:30

    Congratulations, Kevin. My wife was a high school history teacher for years and I work with teachers all the time in TAH grants. At your level you are changing lives for the better in a really tangible way.

    Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  • Sara Dec 23, 2007 @ 22:28

    Kevin, As you know I am a museum education professional and absolutely love my work. It is a wonderful circumstance to be in a position to have the opportunity to choose between two occupations that are both fulfilling and rewarding. I know many who would be very envious of your situation. I’m sure the museum realizes what a gem you are, don’t be suprised if you hear from them in the future!

    Good luck with those young minds…

  • Kevin Dec 22, 2007 @ 10:20

    Mannie and Andrew, — Hey guys, thanks for sharing your own stories. As difficult as the decision was to make I have absolutely no regret whatsoever.

  • Mannie Gentile Dec 22, 2007 @ 9:49


    As far as my own experience is concerned, you’ve dodged a very large bullet.

    I was a museum educator for 17 years. I took the position just out of teaching school. I love teaching and I love history. I thought it would be much more rewarding than a classroom for most of the reasons you cited,

    I eventually rose to the position of curator of education at that very large institution.

    As my managerial responsibilities, and income, grew my connection with actual education – teaching – grew more and more abstract. The fun was evaporating and the soul damaging was underway.

    My passion is teaching, not bean-counting.

    It was a very happy day when the museum and I parted company, six years ago,

    Keep clarifying.


  • Andrew Duppstadt Dec 21, 2007 @ 16:27

    Very interesting and well argued post. Coming from the perspective of one who works full-time in the museum field and part-time in the academic field I can appreciate both sides of the coin. Since embarking on this career path I have come to realize that I probably would tire of full-time teaching rather quickly, though I really do enjoy it in my adjunct status. From reading your post, I can tell that you feel exactly the opposite. I commend you for your dedication to teaching as I feel it takes a special kind of person to exhibit the passion you do. Though I think you would thrive in the museum field, I can tell that you are right where you need to be. Happy Holidays!

    Andrew Duppstadt

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