teaching

Oxford 2016 Revisited

One of the last things we did before leaving London was take a side trip to Oxford the low light of which was that the bus took longer than scheduled both ways and the second bus broke down. Still, had a good time.

Full disclosure, I usually tune out tour guides even when they’re my colleagues, sorry, but I’d much rather wander and see stuff.  Why is that relevant? Well, because I don’t exactly know what most of these photos are of, though I do know they were all taken in Oxford, England. So here are some things I saw worthy of being photographed:

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Christchurch

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Same, but diorama filter on camera

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Thought it was pretty.

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I call this, “Skeletor”

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“Archie”

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“Dory”

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While in Oxford we stopped and wandered the market above, where I had this:

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Yummy meat pie with mash; why aren’t these shops here?

I’ll wrap this up with some photos of the cemetery in the middle, sort of, of Oxford; creepy cool.

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Day 8: Atrocities

This day started with a visit to a concentration camp. The camp is called Sachsenhausen and is located in Oranienburg, Germany about 22 miles north of Berlin. We had to walk from the train station to the camp and along the way I was struck by how ordinary the town was. Some of the houses we passed very near the camp looked like summer homes and all were very neatly kept. I also found it interesting that there were markers posted every so often with stories of the camp. I had wondered how Germans dealt with the legacy of the Nazi’s, I felt it would be under the rug somewhat but I was wrong. Entering the camp was a bit surreal and seeing the “Arbeit Mach Frei” on the gate was unsettling. Again, nothing makes history more tangible than travel. I have taught about the Holocaust, but to see the actual places where the plans were carried out is powerful. This camp was smaller than I had expected then I realized it was built in a populated area. We had a limited amount of time there so I walked faster than I wanted but covered a lot of ground.

After snapping some initial photos I walked over to one of the barracks that is now a museum. Of the many photos and artifacts that were in the museum I was most affected by the actual logs of people who had been sterilized; it was a stack of journals about 4 feet high.  The fact that the Nazi’s kept such meticulous records is disturbing; no, it’s more than disturbing, it’s shocking, offensive, and unfathomable. I go to the end of the barracks and panicked momentarily because I couldn’t find the exit, I had to get out. Luckily I found the exit relatively quickly.

Following the barracks I walked over to the pathology building and mortuary where medical experiments were conducted.  They actually had to design and construct a building for that purpose.  I then wandered the grounds first coming across mass graves and a wall with commemorative plaques from other countries, and finally toward the memorial erected in the center of the camp.  Upon exiting the camp I briefly stepped into the main museum and was met by an actual Nazi uniform which shook me a bit.  Overall a sobering experience.

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Day 7

It was a fittingly rainy day to visit the Wannsee House and Potsdam.  The Wannsee House is where the Nazi’s planned the final solution.  It is now a museum and educational site. What struck me the most was the beautiful setting of the house; a country retreat overlooking a beautiful lake.  The juxtaposition of the setting and what occurred inside the house is, well, bizarre. It was also very unsettling to see photos of Hitler in Germany.  I had several ‘shaken to the core’ moments, very similar to seeing the Vietnam memorial for the first time, or seeing the planes slam into the twin towers; a very visceral recognition, understanding, and acceptance that this was real, it actually happened.

It was apropos for us to visit the location of the Potsdam Conference after the Wannsee House.  The place in Potsdam where the conference was held was at least equal to the beauty of the Wannsee House.  I spent my limited time wandering the grounds rather than taking the tour of the building inside. It was moving to stand on the same patio where Churchill, Wilson, and Stalin sat following the war.

 

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Day 5: Normandy

Day 5 started with a very early bus ride to Normandy with a smarmy bus driver, I’ll save further descriptions of him for another post.  One of the reasons I took this trip was to be able to go to Normandy.  As with most memorials I have visited, nothing really prepares you and you’re surprised by what affects you and how you’re affected. There is nothing that can convey the shear number of casualties other than visiting Normandy.  As I walked among the marble crosses and stars of David I began to think of my uncle who survived D-Day.  He was a bomber pilot who volunteered for extra sorties beyond his assignment.  While reflecting on his bravery and contribution to the war effort I was reminded of my dad who passed in March. They both led long, charmed, amazing lives.  I walked, bringing them with me, feeling the weight of the place; couldn’t help but weep.

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Schema

One of my goals as a teacher is to help my students embrace their ignorance.  Too many of them are afraid to participate in class discussions because they’re worried they’ll be wrong, or worse they feel they don’t know anything.  I try to emphasize that not knowing things is okay, it just means there is more stuff to learn!  To make them feel better about their own ignorance I teach them about the concept of schema.  A person’s schema is everything they have learned over their lifetime.  People use this accumulated knowledge, or schema, to make sense of and interpret new situations.  Since everyone’s life experiences are different we all have different schemas.  I know a LOT about geography and history but much less about science and math.  I encourage my students to think of their schema as a library they can reference when trying to understand new things.  I demonstrate this concept by having them interpret things like this:

One of the students saw this sign and observed, “Hey, they messed up that sign,  one leg is shorter than the other on the people.”

“Well, that’s to indicate they are walking.” I replied.

“No, I think they just  messed up the sign.”

“Ok, I’ll buy that, then that means they messed up all of the signs we’ve seen like this in each of the countries we visited.”

Silence.

This next photo I took over 10 years ago in Spain and show it to my students every year.  I ask them to use their schema to tell me what they think it means:

“Illegals running across the border!” Is a typical response I get every year, I’m still not sure how they get that from this.  I point out the briefcase held by one of the figures and say it indicates a school crossing.

“Ohhhhh.”

This year I’ll show them this one which is more clear:

 

I wonder what my students schema will tell me about this one:

 

 

Every year my students complain about our school dress code, so I’m looking forward to showing them this photo from the Pantheon

 

Travelling through France, Spain and Italy I was struck by the number of signs that had no text, just images or caricatures like the first photo I posted here.  I started to wonder why there were no words, then I realized, duh, there’s like a gazillion different languages spoken in Europe, pictures are easier than having every translation on a sign.  So if you’re travelling to the Museo de Prado with your dog you’ll know what this means:

 

Another teaching goal I have is to encourage my students to travel.  Many of them are hesitant because they don’t speak another language.  I tell them not to worry, with their schema they’ll be just fine.  Finding food for example:

 

 

A pleasant place to eat….

Or a bathroom…(a little fuzzy, I was in a hurry)

 

 

 

or a place to buy souvenirs…

 

 

 

I’m not sure how well myself or my students could have navigated medieval Carcassone though, even with our schemas.  Without a proper frame of reference, this makes no sense:

 

Here’s a close up, any ideas what this indicated?

Categories: France, Geography, Italy, photography, Spain, teaching, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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