What’s In a Tagline?

keep-calm-i-m-a-history-teacherOnce again the Civil War blogosphere has descended into the tired debate of who is and who is not a historian. The latest foray into this web of conceptual analysis can be found at Brooks Simpson’s site in response to the recent editorial about Civil War reenacting. I have very little patience for these discussions because they get us nowhere. I’ve had others debate whether I am a historian, which for the most part has been used to question the legitimacy of what I write specifically on this blog as opposed to anything else I’ve done over the past few years.

While I will never lose sleep over this issue, one thing that is not up for debate is my own self-identity as a high school history teacher. You will notice that the old tagline is once again visible under the header. I cracked a little smile yesterday when I decided to do this. When my wife and I first moved to Boston in July 2011 I was excited about the prospect of a year away from the classroom. My goal was to finish the Crater book and make a large dent in the Black Confederates book and a host of other projects. Things didn’t work out as planned. Sure, I finished the book and I was able to stay fairly productive, but there were periods of inactivity and some of it was accompanied by a good deal of depression. No one pushed me to do anything and at times I found it debilitating.

It’s not that I eventually lost my focus, but that I was cut off from the very activity that gives meaning to my love for the study of history.  More than anything else it keeps me sharp, forces me to learn a subject in a way that doesn’t allow for cutting corners, and keeps me in touch with young adults, who I love working with. In the end, my passion for the subject is wrapped up in being able to share what I know and don’t know and vice-versa. I never want to be cut off from other people as I’ve been these past two years.

So, come September it’s back to the classroom full time. This year I am teaching two new classes, including one that will allow me to draw parallels between how Germans remember the Holocaust and Civil War memory. I’ve spent most of this summer reading histories of the Holocaust. I am once again looking forward to sharing what I do in the classroom on this blog and I suspect that having structure once again in my life will help to increase my productivity in areas beyond the classroom. This move is not without some anxiety, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Note: The two premium themes that I use for this site were updated this week and I am still trying to figure out which direction to go. You can expect to see changes to the layout in the coming weeks.

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10 comments… add one
  • London John Jul 20, 2013 @ 2:33

    So the British Ministry of Information has made its mark on Civil War Memory. Is KEEP CALM and CARRY ON well-known in the US?

    • Kevin Levin Jul 20, 2013 @ 2:37

      I don’t know. Came across it online and thought it worked.

  • Mary Ellen Maatman Jul 17, 2013 @ 11:41

    i wholeheartedly agree except that I need summer to be about 2-3 weeks longer to ensure finishing projects. That’s partly because I also wear an adminstrative hat. On the Holocaust: “One, By One, By One.” It’s specifically on how different European countries have processed their memories of how they responded to the Holocaust. I also suggest Dan Bar-On, Legacy of Silence: Encounters with Children of the Third Reich.”

  • Brad Jul 17, 2013 @ 9:19

    If you’re not a historian, whoever wrote that great Crater book needs to raise their hand 🙂

    Regarding Holocaust histories, are you familiar with the book The Lost: A Search for Six of the Six Million. Not sure it fits into your class but it’s an incredible book.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 17, 2013 @ 9:20

      Thanks for the kind words and for the reference. Always looking for additional references as I am working from the ground up.

  • Woodrowfan Jul 17, 2013 @ 6:19

    Preach it brother! I had a nice career (in IT of all things) and left it because I really missed being in the classroom. I love my new career, even with the substantial pay cut! But when you see that light go on in a student’s eye because they just “got it”, as Kevin knows, there’s nothing like it in the world…

  • Patrick Young Jul 17, 2013 @ 4:53

    Congrats. I love to spend a few days doing nothing but research, but after a few weeks, I feel disconnected as well. Human life is not one dimensional and neither should the scholars life be.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 17, 2013 @ 5:46

      All work and no play makes Kevin a dull boy. 🙂

  • wkerrigan Jul 17, 2013 @ 4:47

    Thanks for this post. I completely connect with your desire to get back to the regular human interaction of the classroom. As a teacher at a non-elite regional liberal arts college, my teaching-heavy job is in many ways similar to teaching at a private high school. I realize that my infrequent sabbaticals are a luxury and a privilege, and was glad to be able to finish my book during the last one. Many non-scholars imagined my sabbatical as a kind of extended vacation, but I found it at times to be a lonely and depressing experience. I longed for more regular human interaction and the multi-tasking reality of a teaching day. I found the reality that each morning there was just one task before me–writing–and the awareness that if I wasn’t getting writing done I was procrastinating at times quite oppressive. With the book manuscript sent off I was relieved and ready to get back to the classroom. “A change is as good as a rest,” and shifting from teaching-centered days to research- and writing-focused days has its value. Enjoy your return to the classroom. (But I still eagerly await the Black Confederates book.)

    • Kevin Levin Jul 17, 2013 @ 5:45

      I hinted at this in the post, but I really believe that full-time teaching puts me in a much better place to work on my own research. My mind is stimulated and I end up valuing that much more the time available to write and research. The BC book is still in the works. I published a couple of magazine pieces over the past year and I’ve got what will likely be a version of the introduction coming out in the Professional Notes section of the Journal of the Civil War Era next year. What will likely happen is that I use next summer to knock it out.

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