Hey everybody!

I'm Andrew Thom and I'm a senior on my way to a bachelors in history with a minor in psychology here at Michigan State. I've always loved history but after having four straight years with a great history teacher I knew that teaching was something I wanted to do, so here I find myself.


My interests outside of school are pretty widespread, but I definitely love to live an active lifestyle. I'm a bit of a thrill seeker in that I've gone bungie jumping, white water rafting, snowboarding, travelling to new places etc and I always love a challenge. I'm a huge fan of music and try to go to as many live shows as I can as well as a film lover. A big hobby of mine is photography with one of the most amazing places I've ever shot being Australia. I was there for a month in the summer of 2010 for a volunteer project where I worked with rebuilding the natural habitat alongside aboriginal people and it was without rival the most incredible experience of my life. There's something incredibly enlightening about being a place so far away with people who are quite different from you yet finding that you have so much in common with them.
tully_river_rafting_004.jpg BungyViewCairns.jpg
Here's a few pictures of white water rafting and what the view I jumped from look like.

Being someone who loves movies, I feel like it'd be good to show all of you a scene from a movie which has one of my favorite teacher portrayals, Half Nelson. Ryan Gosling's performance in this movie epitomizes what it means to be a good history teacher in my opinion because he's focused on talking about the things that happened, why they happened, and what it's effects are on us today rather than specific dates and standard facts.
Half Nelson

I'm hoping that following the completion of this program that I will be able to move to other places in the coming years and teach all different types of kids around the country and perhaps even outside of it.


9/11 Lesson Plan

With 9/11 I think the most important thing is to discuss it, so a discussion is what I would plan. The night before the lesson I would provide the class with four different readings to the class which they are to take notes on and prepare to talk about the next day. There will be four even groups who each get their own reading so that the discussions won't be too big in class the following day. When the students come into class the next day I will have the class organized so that we can partake in a Socratic Circle. The first group will discuss the first reading for ten minutes, the second group the second reading and so on.

Each of the readings I assign will be different, with some more controversial than others. What I expect this lesson to do is make the kids see different perspectives about the same event as well as give them the chance to form their own opinions when they are discussing the readings. One of the readings I would assign I would choose specifically because it is something which will cause a heated debate, like a conspiracy theory instance, because I would want to see which students would blindly follow an argument no matter how far fetched it is and which students would make sure to find the holes in the argument. This lesson would give students the forum to actually talk about 9/11 rather than be lectured about the same things they have probably heard nonstop on TV in the week leading up to it. And in a difficult topic like this I feel like there is no better way to give the students a real understanding than having them work it out themselves.


High School Elective Course (1 Semester)

US History Through Film

Course Description: This course will be about the way filmmakers have influenced America and its people through the stories they tell in their films. Among the topics we will touch on in the course will be the wars America has fought in, American politics, and how the American way of life has changed over time. We will talk about, among other things, how historical accuracy affects a film’s legitimacy when touching on a subject as well as how some creative additions which did not actually happen can negatively influence the audience.

Course Materials: There will be no textbook for this class, but it will be required that each student has a notebook so that they can log their thoughts and opinions on the films we watch as well as the subjects which the films depict. Since this is a class based on film one of the main materials will be the movies which we watch, but those will be provided and chosen by the teacher. I will also bring primary sources and articles into the class to relate to the films. Movie reviews will also be a good tool to use because it will serve the purpose of showing that films can be interpreted in numerous ways which can lead to them being considered "good" or "bad" films.

Course Evaluation:
Each of the films that we watch in class will be preceded by a lecture on the film’s subject matter then followed by a discussion after the film is completed. Participation in class discussion will be a large portion of evaluation. One to two page essays relating the film to the actual historical event being discussed will serve as the homework portion of the evaluation. Then the rest of the grade will come from two longer essays, one in the middle of the semester and one at the end, which will relate multiple films to a certain theme which will be determined in class.

Course Schedule:

Unit 1: War in America

The main point I want to make with this unit is that entirely different stories can be made about the same event, and there are few better ways to do this than with war films. One way I think I would be able to successfully accomplish this goal would be by showing two World War II movies, the first from the American perspective (Saving Private Ryan) and the second from the Japanese perspective (Letters to Iwo Jima). Another would be to show a film about the current military conflicts that the US is involved in (The Hurt Locker or The Messenger). By showing opposing sides of a story the expectation is that the students will be forced to think critically about war and eventually start to discuss America’s current role in wars around the world and whether or not they seem legitimate.

Unit 2: Politics

Politics is of enormous importance in American history, and there are plenty of films used to depict this. I would like to show a film which touches on the Civil Rights Movement (Malcolm X), the Gay Rights Movement (Milk), and a presidential movie (JFK). I would want to use these films to discuss the important events that took place in each of these films and get the students opinions on them. One of the things I would like to get out of this unit is a dialogue among the students where they can debate these issues and the controversy that surrounds them, especially in regards to how each of these movies are about a political force in America that was assassinated.

Unit 3: Current Issues in America

For this unit I want to show the students what the media likes to show is important to Americans based on the films that are made. I’d pick a sport movie (Remember the Titans) and a music movie (School of Rock) for this Unit because I think the influences of these things especially in a teenager’s life are huge. With these movies we can discuss unity and how sports help create teams rather than individuals, how the education system tends to discourage artistry and creativity, and whether or not the students agree that teamwork and art are even important today. School of Rock seems like a movie that most students will laugh off as being irrelevant, but by bringing in articles in newspapers that talk about how the arts are being cut in schools across America. Then for sports I will bring articles pertaining to sports in America now, especially those about child sports which are becoming more focused on making everyone feel equal and praising mediocrity when this in no way reflects reality.

Professional Growth Plan

Area 1: Content Knowledge

A) Content knowledge is important because in order to put together a class that effectively teaches the students history, the teacher has to have enough knowledge to answer most questions. By regularly expanding and developing his content knowledge, a teacher will be able to better explain certain topics which he may not have studied often in school as well as be able to tie this content knowledge into current events that may be taking place in the US or anywhere else in the world.

B) The reason I want to focus on this area of development is that while I do have areas where I feel my content knowledge is quite strong (US History, Ancient Rome and Greece, Mexico etc) there are other parts of the world where my knowledge is relatively basic, like for instance Africa. Unfortunately most of the knowledge I have about Africa has to do with Egypt, colonialism from the European perspective, and slavery. There is much more to know about this continent and the growth of my content knowledge would also give me the ability to give students the chance to learn about an area of the world they may know little about.

C) To expand my content knowledge I have considered possibly taking a summer class while the students are on break as well as just doing my own personal research online through reputable sources and websites. I will be able to monitor my growth in this area by expanding upon as well as making new, more in depth lesson plans as well as just starting to have a better ability to explain a subject which I may not have been good at prior to working on it.

Area 2: Professional Knowledge

A) Professional knowledge is the knowledge a teacher has in regards to the act of teaching and all of the work that goes into putting together a successful course and a successful classroom. It involves being able to choose the best textbook for a course, designing productive lesson plans and assignments, learning about new and better ways to teach and help students, and constantly improving your craft.

B) I want to focus on my professional development because it's an area which I have not worked on long enough to feel completely comfortable. I understand the basic idea of what it takes to be a successful teacher but my skills could always be made better. I'd like to be able to find a method for picking out a textbook especially because I've often thought about teaching through primary sources and smaller articles but having a textbook for the students is also essential, so it'd be good to develop the skills to figure out what a good textbook looks like.

C) In order to develop my professional knowledge I think it would be wise to go to conferences dedicated to the development of teachers at least once or twice a year. This way I will be able to get in contact with teachers from all different places with who I can share techniques that have worked for me and learn new techniques that are being used in other places to create the best classroom we can. Talking to people who were teachers in the past and getting information from them about ways which they weeded out the good books from the bad books for their classes would also be a potentially great way to develop my professional knowledge.

Area 3: Enthusiasm and Openness

A) Having enthusiasm and openness as a teacher means that you can show the students your interest in the subject and how much you want to be there by showing excitement and a passion for what you are teaching. Openness in a classroom means that you have the ability to engage with students regularly, to listen to what they have to say by letting them voice their opinions, and by always reinforcing their responses in order to get them to continue participating in discussion.

B) When it comes to enthusiasm, I think that I can be quite energetic and excited to teach lessons which I am most passionate about and know the most about. It's when I'll have to teach about parts of history which I am either not fond of or know relatively little about that I may find it hard to illustrate my enthusiasm to the class. I also think that I could improve the openness I show when I am standing in front of a class because as of yet I have not spent a ton of time in front of a group of kids so I'm still developing the best way to engage them and get the most out of interactions with them.

C) The best thing I can do for improving this area is to keep practicing. The more times I spend in front of kids, the more comfortable I'll continue to get and the more I'll understand what it takes to be an open teacher. For enthusiasm I can try to put together lesson plans for the areas which I'm not naturally interested in that are more student based and focus more on discussion and relating ideas than lecturing. I could also experiment with different activities which may give the students a better understanding of the subject than I can give them with my personal knowledge.

Halloween Lecture Outline

Where the traditions come from:
  • Show a brief video from the history channel: http://www.history.com/videos/halloweens-origins#halloweens-origins
  • All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, All Souls Day
    • Converting pagans to Christianity
    • Halloween has origins in Celtic culture where on the last day of the Celtic calendar to honor the dead by in hopes of keeping roaming souls of that night happy so that their crops would be plentiful
  • Carving Pumpkins
    • Originally the Celtics carved out gourds and put burning coal in them to help guide their familial spirits their way
    • The pumpkins we use today became used on Halloween when the Irish started migrating over and found that the pumpkins here were bigger and more easily carved
    • Legend behind that name Jack O' Lantern which came to American with the Irish immigrants
  • Costumes:
    • Why people started wearing them
    • Belief that the veil between the living and the dead being at it's thinnest
    • Protecting yourself from the "evil" spirits
  • Trick or Treating:
    • The act of going door to door asking for gifts has been around for centuries
    • The modern day interpretation of going door to door start with sugar rationing in the US in the 1940s
    • Discuss how trick or treating has spread to other cultures
  • Dia de Los Muertos: Day of the Dead
    • The famous Mexican interpretation of the holiday which has origins in indigenous people of Mexico
    • Like with the Celtic pagan holiday, the Day of the Dead was adopted by Christianity as a means of conversion
    • Compare the Day of the Dead to All Saints/All Souls Day
    • Day of the Dead traditions

Microteaching #5

Lesson Topic: Hiroshima/Atomic Bomb Dropping in WWII

external image hiroshima-portrait.jpg
1. What do you see in this photograph?

2. When and where do you think it was taken?

3. In what country did the US drop the atomic bomb in World War II?

4. What did dropping the bomb accomplish?

5. Was the Allied victory worth the cost of innocent life from the bomb?

6. Is there any other way we could have won the war?

7. Do you think nuclear weapons should still be in our arsenal?

8. If you could go back in time as president during the war, would you have done things differently?

Geography Concepts

Geography is an interesting subject because it's almost always taught the same way, and that's part of the reason why I think so many students (including myself back in the day) found the class so boring. The Segall article points out something about maps in particular that is almost never mentioned, the fact that they are often biased based on who created them and based on the time they were made, could even be completely inaccurate. While this could be seen as detrimental to learning in terms of teaching students about specific boundaries, locations of countries and the like, it could be used to generate some pretty interesting conversation about map making. I think a lesson that I would want to make would be along the lines of human geography and how people have moved from one place to another over time. By starting with the origin in Africa, it would potentially be a way to show students that while most of the borders, nations, and people have been influenced by Western Europe over the last several hundred years, we all came from the same place to begin with.