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Note: What follows is the second in a three-part series of posts based on recent reflections on the fall semester from my students. The first post contained reflections from my students in American government (mostly seniors), while these are from my students in American history (juniors). Later this week, I will post my own thoughts based on these reflections.

1. What is the most valuable lesson you have learned about history this semester?

The valuable lesson I have learned about history this semester is simple: everybody has different stories, different backgrounds, different thoughts, and therefore different perspectives.

History should not be accepted without a doubt by people; we have to question the validity of all claims in history in order to find the truth. There were many topics we discussed in class, specifically the Salem Witch Trials and the Civil War, that were much more complex than I had thought before entering this class. It was valuable to me to realize that a person cannot just read the textbook to get an understanding of what actually happened. It is important to compare many different sources to figure out what happens in history.

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First, if there’s anyone out there who actually reads this blog, I offer an apology for my lack of recent posts. I intended to post a number of things over the holidays, but if I’m being honest, I found that I enjoyed unplugging far too much. I went almost two weeks without touching my computer, and it was everything I hoped it could be. I spent a lot of that time reading, and wrapped up a great year in books (perhaps I’ll post about that soon).

I’ve fallen down on my promise to reflect regularly, but I hope to get back on that this month. I’m also planning to begin posting reviews of some of my education/history reads, possibly as soon as tomorrow.

For now, though, I wanted to share some terrific mid-year writing from my students. As part of their semester assessments, I asked my students to write a series of brief reflections on their work so far. Of course, I didn’t have any “correct” answers in mind; rather, I hoped that intentional reflection on the semester would help students clarify the “big picture” takeaways at a time when it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the details.

I’m pleased to report that the results were much better than anything I expected. The students impressed me with their thoughtfulness, and I was especially pleased to see that many of them had apparently learned the skills and habits of mind I had hoped to impart.

This will be the first in a series of three posts on this topic. Below are my questions and a few reflections from students (mostly seniors) in my semester-length course, which is essentially an introduction to American government. I’m sad to say goodbye to this group, but it looks so far like I have another great group this semester. Later this week, I’ll post a few reflections from my juniors (American history), and I’ll wrap up with a few thoughts of my own based on their reflections.

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