Monthly Archives: January 2013

AHA, Christmas . . .

I am currently sitting in my hotel room at the AHA conference in New Orleans. My wife and infant son (who is about the cutest baby in the whole world) are not with me, unfortunately. I have been reviewing old notes and lecture plans to prepare for an interview tomorrow. Now seemed as good a time as any to reflect on my own and the more general history.
To update on me, my wife and I had a wonderful baby boy, and we have been very happy despite the assorted troubles that go with having a newborn. He is generally quite happy and sweet. My work on my dissertation has slowed considerably, but I have been making progress in recent days, and plan to finish this school year. I have been teaching world history at Georgia Gwinnett College, and next semester, in addition to GGC, I will be picking up a class at Kennesaw State University.
To any relatively new grad students out there, I have some advice. 1. Make sure that you can teach world history. All the work I have been able to get has hinged largely on my ability to teach world history. Make sure that your fourth field and possibly your third are as eclectic as possible. My fourth field is Japanese history, and I am very grateful for it. My third field is Sci. Rev., which also has opened the door to places that lack anyone who does history of science. Make sure that you can teach broadly, because most departments are small and you are much more attractive if you can do many things. Being comfortable teaching world history also means that you can say something (if only one thing) to almost any historian which won’t sound entirely stupid or made up. 2. If at all possible, get some experience teaching writing. This is not possible at all institutions, but what interviews I have had have shown me that whether or not you intend to teach writing, people like to see that there. Most historians don’t actually know how to go about teaching writing, but it is very important to us. 3. If given the opportunity to teach a class, teach something at the edge of your abilities. It is very tempting to teach your major field, but being able to prove to potential employers that you can teach all the things you say you can is very helpful. They know you can teach your primary field; it’s the others that are in doubt. 4. Oh, and this is a bit of a side thought, but make sure to pay attention in your methodology class. You would be surprised how useful that will be. 5. Take copious notes on your computer and sign up for a cloud service. Make sure that those notes and all your teaching materials are up there, too. It never hurts to have easy access to those things when away from home. I recommend sugarsync.
That was all advice (except for the last) that I have received from a variety of people over the course of my graduate career, but considering the path of my career, I think they are among the most useful pieces of advice I have received.
My fingers are crossed for tomorrow, though I know that the odds are not in my favor. It is hopefully only the first of many such opportunities.
The title of this post comes from a pamphlet from 1647 (or possibly 1646, I don’t really feel like looking it up right now). I used to see it abbreviated as “Aha! Christmas . . . ” and it was connected to the Christmas riots that followed parliament’s attempt to halt the celebration of Christmas. It does not have much to do with this post, except that it includes the words “AHA” and “Christmas,” and the latter is only relevant because it was recently Christmas. I just thought it was a funny title/abbreviation.


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