Living Appropriately: Musings From a History Teacher in Colombia

So we typically have a quiz every Friday in our Modern History class, and they normally take up roughly the first half of the period. For the first couple weeks I didn’t really have a great plan in terms of what to do with the leftover 25 minutes or so that we had at the end of the quiz; as a first-year teacher I always try to be conscientious of maximizing our time in the classroom, and I’m probably tougher on myself than many other veteran teachers would be in this spot in terms of still feeling the need to prove myself as an effective educator and therefore not squandering any time. On the other hand, though, it’s tough to get the kids (not to mention myself, at times) to really dial in the focus on a Friday afternoon, plus I want the classroom to be a place where we can have fun from time to time too. So after a couple weeks of mulling this over, I came up with what I thought was a pretty neat solution: we would play History Jeopardy on Fridays after the quiz!

My inspiration for this was thinking back to our 6th grade social studies class with Mr. Fenster and how we always played “Current Events” on Fridays, which was basically the same type of game. I’m generally a big advocate of making learning as fun as possible and hope to continue discovering some effective ways to integrate creative games into my future classroom. But in any event, we’ve started doing this now for the past few weeks and it’s been pretty fun. The students seem to enjoy it, and as I hinted at before, I think it’s about as good of a compromise as I can come up with in terms of letting them be able to relax a bit on a Friday afternoon but still wanting them to engage in a worthwhile educational activity. The one caveat I would add to this is that after asking for their feedback on what categories we should have, I decided to expand it beyond a history-only affair; the categories we’ve had are History, Geography (this one was my own idea, as I love maps and also think it’s important for them to be able to know precisely where the events that we study took place), American Culture (mainly movies, T.V., and music), and then a “Grab-Bag”, random category.

My biggest surprise to this point was that nobody knows who Bill Murray is over here! Yes, that wonderfully talented gentleman of Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Lost in Translation fame: excellent productions all, but even beyond that, I think possibly my favorite celebrity that I can think of. Not that this is saying much, mind you–I generally have precious little love lost over celebrity culture, for various reasons–but the stories you hear about this guy from time to time are simply fantastic: showing up at some random college party in Scotland, drinking vodka and washing dishes into the wee hours; stealing a french fry from a guy at a fast-food joint, looking him straight in the eye and saying “nobody’s going to believe you,” etc. In short, his take on celebrity jives with what I would like to think mine would be if I were famous, i.e., something that is randomly surreal, something that one should have fun with from time to time, and something that should definitely never be taken too seriously.  So thanks, Bill…and DO come visit Taiwan sometime and introduce yourself to the wonderful people here, I’m sure you’d love it.

Lost in Translation

Cheers, Bill

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Andrew Leniton