Frontier House


I got introduced to a new video that overlaps with my U.S. History class. I try not to be over video history teacher, although sometimes I feel like I’m one of the few. I will use videos when they are better able to convey the message I’m trying to get across than other means. An example would be the tarring and feathering scenes in John Adams. I can talk about tarring and feathering, but showing the scene is much more powerful (please be aware that you need to use an edited version of this scene…you have been warned).

I have long used resources like Crash Course US History, Hip Hughes History, John Adams, and America: The Story of US. All of these play their roles. With that being said, I’m always on the lookout for something new. In this case, I was introduced to the PBS series Frontier House that ran a few years ago now.

Let me set the scene, PBS gets people to apply to give up their modern life essentials and live like the pioneers of westward expansion. They have to build their own houses, farm their own food, and live like pioneers. They film it and get reactions to what is happening in the form of a reality TV show. I won’t ruin anything in case this sounds like a good watch, but it is hilarious.

I’m using this in my classroom as an end of the year “could you live like the settlers” wind down activity. Most of my students think they could do this, but after watching the videos most are now convinced they cannot.

The only downsides to these videos are that there are a could of scenes that make me uncomfortable showing to my middle school students (like less than a minute and easy to skip) and the fact that I needed to buy them on DVD to show.


Review Blues


It’s that time of year again. We have come to the end of our history content and now we are knee deep in the process of reviewing everything all over again. What about this time of year fills me with such dread? Why is it that I enjoy my job all year to get to the end and feel so differently?

The first thing is that the end is near and everyone is looking ahead. Summer is so much fun. Students and teachers alike are ready to be done and free to do anything but be in school. I wish I could say that this doesn’t apply to me, but it does. My patience is running thin for particular students and I am ready for an extended break to recharge my batteries. I wouldn’t necessarily call this an excuse, but more a reality at the end of the school year. I wouldn’t call it human nature, I would call it a part of the life cycle of the school year. The question is, could this be different next year? I’m not sure.

The second thing is that there is state testing involved in the stress of the season. I do not talk about the test, and I don’t want my students to be stressed about a test. Does that mean there is zero stress? No. I am a duck riding on the surface of the water…everything looks calm, but the duck’s feet are kicking wildly under the water. My caffeine intake tends to skyrocket, I’m shorter with students than I need to be, and I feel like I’m always tired. Could this be different? Sure.

I’m trying to be proactive this year. I’ve started taking evening walks now that the weather is cooperating. I’m reminding myself of a mantra a previous principle had “Choose your attitude.” I cannot control the students in my class, but I can control how I act and how I respond to the students in my classroom. No matter what, I need to be a positive influence on the students in my classroom and continue to push them to the finish line.