The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Yesterday I walked out of my high school history classroom for the final time. I gave notice fairly early in the year in order to force myself to think carefully about what might be my next steps. Upon moving to Boston back in the summer of 2011 I hoped to find the space to weigh options beyond the classroom. Without going into too much detail, the reality of moving to a new city necessitated having to think about full-time employment a bit sooner than I would have preferred. It certainly wasn’t the end of the world as I still love teaching high school students and the intellectual stimulation that it brings.

I will never be far from the high school classroom. In fact, it is certainly possible that I may end up in one again, but for now it’s time to think about other possibilities.

So, what will I be up to in the immediate future? In September I will begin teaching a research seminar as a visiting instructor at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. The seminar attracts undergraduates from area colleges and provides them the opportunity to explore the AAS’s rich archival collections as part of the writing of a substantial research paper. It will come as no surprise that my seminar will focus on the Civil War era. You will be hearing more about this in the immediate future as I put together the syllabus.

One of my favorite organizations here in town is Facing History and Ourselves. I made extensive use of their curricular materials on the Holocaust and the Second World War over the past two years. In the Fall they will officially release their new curriculum on Reconstruction. I have met with the team that created the curriculum and have read through the core publication that is now available to teachers. It is a phenomenal effort and one that is badly needed as we move into the 150th anniversary of Reconstruction. I will be involved with training teachers to use the curriculum and functioning as a content expert that can lecture on various aspects of the history. Explore their website for on-site and online opportunities for professional development. You won’t be disappointed.

Finally, I am going to complete my book project on the history and memory of black Confederates. As you know I’ve gone around and around with this project and even put it aside for what I thought would be for good, but it kept calling my name with every sensational news story. I am well into it and hope to have a completed draft by the end of the year. For the first time in quite a while I am actually enjoying working on it.

No doubt, joining a book writing group, which will meet monthly will keep me focused on the finish line. Our little group is called Book Squad and includes Heather Cox Richardson, Seth Jacobs, Megan Kate Nelson, Elizabeth Covert and Sara Giorgino. We’ve already met once and it promises to be an effective and enjoyable way to workshop ideas, share frustrations and offer words of encouragement for one another.

This will certainly keep me occupied for the remainder of the year. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. I still have fantasies about working in a museum and/or historic site. I am fascinated with how history is presented and consumed at historic sites and I find the most enjoyment as a historian/teacher when I am in that position. Of course, living in Boston offers numerous opportunities and you can rest assured that they will be explored.

Let me close by wishing all of my fellow history teachers a much deserved and restful summer.

14 comments… add one
  • Buck Buchanan Jun 15, 2015 @ 9:13

    Academia’s loss will surely be public history’s gain.

    I was fortunate to have a high school history teacher like you (thanks Mr. John Scibilia!) that helped provide order and guidance so I enjoyed a greater love of history. That love has endure for over 40 years.

    I am sure there are many students who will look back and rememeber with fondness of Mr. Levin.

    Best of luck!

  • Martha Swan Jun 14, 2015 @ 19:01


    Many and deserved congratulations, to be sure! As much as I lament when great teachers leave the classroom, I also selfishly hold out the hope that we’ll be able to involve you more closely in the John Brown Lives! work with teachers and students that we first talked about way back in Charlottesville. Expect a call!

    • Kevin Levin Jun 14, 2015 @ 19:03

      Great to hear from you, Martha. Let’s find some time to talk.

      • Martha Swan Jun 14, 2015 @ 19:09

        Two more weeks of exams, etc. here. But evenings are fairly open with much less of that school-night preoccupation. What are you doing between June 28-Jul 1? We’re holding our 2nd Summer Institute for teachers involved in the In My Backyard project we talked about way back when. Focusing on Harriet Tubman, the Institute is bringing together a handful of teacher from Maryland, Auburn, NY, and other parts of NYS plus scholars in Auburn. Any wild chance you could join us?

  • Andy Hall Jun 12, 2015 @ 7:47

    Congratulations, Kevin. I imagine this is both an exciting and anxious time for you.

    One thing you can reflect on is having brought great history to your students both in Charlottesville and in Boston. I never had a high school history teacher like that, and I think very few people actually did. The instructors I had who made history “click” for me all came later, in college. You’ve given hundreds and hundreds of students a running head start on that.

  • Kevin Levin Jun 11, 2015 @ 10:14

    As always, thanks for the kind words.

  • M.D. Blough Jun 11, 2015 @ 7:35

    Best wishes for health, happiness, and success as you embark on this new phase of your life.

  • Jimmy Dick Jun 11, 2015 @ 6:41

    You’re in good company with Megan and Liz. I think you all will generate some incredible synergy and produce something beyond your original expectations as a result.

    I think the Black Confederate book is something that will find a larger audience than the Crater book. It concerns a topic that is current. You will definitely generate some negative waves from the usual suspects, but that might work to your favor. In any event, do a thorough job and keep at it. I am looking forward to reading it.

  • Matt McKeon Jun 11, 2015 @ 4:23

    Looking forward to the Black Confederate book. Best of luck, Kevin. I enjoyed your posts on your teaching and interactions with students. I’ll keep checking in for any “doings” you’re up to in Massachusetts.

  • Annette Jackson Jun 11, 2015 @ 3:22

    What wonderful opportunities you are facing! So many things to look forward to, including the publication, eventually, of your book on black Confederates. This seems to be the myth that doesn’t die, as shown by endless discussions on various Civil War sites just on Facebook alone. I am looking forward to more discussions on Reconstruction and had never heard of the organization you mentioned called Facing History and Ourselves.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 11, 2015 @ 3:25

      Hi Annette,

      Definitely check out Facing History and let me know if you have any questions.

  • Chris L. Robinson Jun 11, 2015 @ 3:08

    Good luck, Kevin–not that you’ll need it. Much respect.

  • Pat Young Jun 11, 2015 @ 3:03

    Best of luck with your new departure.

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