You are looking at a one of the newest Social Studies/History teachers in Orange County Public Schools!  I start on Tuesday teaching juniors and seniors economics, American government, and American history!  That means that I’ll be able to blog about some of my most successful lesson plans and activities and some that just plain did not go well.  I’m excited about this journey!




Immigration is not a new issue in the United States. Every half century, there is a new perceived foreign threat to our status quo. From the natives (that’s a whole other discussion regarding the definition of ‘foreign’), to the African slaves, Chinese, Italians, Irish… the list goes on. The United States has an ugly history of xenophobia. Sadly, it never seems to truly go away in some portions of the country, with ethnic slurs still muttered either intentionally or unintentionally insulting. I eagerly await more news on the “immigration reform” that the President and Congress is supposedly coming up with, especially regarding these new threats.  Hopefully this chapter in our history will close soon, but I know better than to expect that this will be the last immigration issue we hear about.  Look for a future post regarding a brief overview of our history of ugly immigration policy and some teaching tips very soon.  I thought I’d post this political cartoon from 1879 in advance just as a bit of a teaser 😉 (click on the picture to make it bigger so you can read the text)


The Ultimate Search: Finding Your Birth Family

imagesCAOT6STOAccording to The AFCARS Report from the US Department of Health and Human Services as of September 30, 2011 there were 104,236 children age 18 and under who were waiting to be adopted.  Each year, more and more of these children grow farther apart from their personal history, some never knowing who their parents are and others with unpleasant memories of their birth families.  The tragedy for the former group is the ever-present questions “who am I?” and “why did they give me up?”  Every day they receive constant reminders of these questions when they are asked at the doctor’s office for their medical history or even in the faces of their children when they in turn ask the questions about their ancestry, often times for a classroom assignment.  Thus, the search begins.

Who am I?

The daunting task of beginning the search looms over these people.  How do I begin?  What if I’m not prepared for the answers I might receive?  No doubt, it will be an emotional journey full of stops and starts, emotional highs and pitfalls.

Beginning Your Search

First, create a folder where you will keep all of the information you collect.  Whether it be electronically or a hardcopy file, it is best to keep everything in one place with a backup copy somewhere else just in case.  Second, write down everything you know about your birth- the date, location, your original name if your adoptive parents changed it, the hospital, etc.  Anything you know can help.  Your adoptive parents may hold some information in some documents from your official adoption.  They may or may not contain your birth parents’ names.  If possible, contact the Clerk of Courts in the county of your birth for your official birth certificate if you do not have one.  Usually there is a small fee associated with mailing or emailing it.  A petition for adoption and final decree of adoption may also be available.  The Child Welfare Information Gateway has an excellent document regarding how to obtain the adoption paperwork and information from each state that can be found here or search for Access to Adoption Records, Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Many people suggest adding your name to an Adoption Reunion Registry to let people know that you are interested in alogo-theme1 reunion with your birth family.  The most popular that I’ve found is the Reunion Registry found here. also appears to be a good resource on information for preparing for the impending reunion once you locate your birth family.

Make It Public and Start a Support Network

Support is also an important part of your journey into finding information.  Not only from your family and friends, but also from other people who are going through the same search.  There are numerous communities of people with the same experiences and the same emotional rollercoaster.  One of the best ways to find information is to get it out there that you are looking.  Start a blog, post on Facebook and Twitter, create a YouTube video, do something that can be shared and encourage your friends and family to do so.  However, be careful of the information you post as it will be public domain.  Beware of people who may try to take advantage of you or imposters.  Never post your address, social security number, or other such private information.

Now You Have Some Information

Ok, now you have a nice collection of information and you feel like you can start actually trying to find the people to match the information.  How do you go about that?  You can join a geneaology website like and find out more information about your relatives and who else you might be related to based on the information you have if it is not complete.  You may also consider joining a location service such as E-Verify.  The website will be able to give you the current locations of people and sometimes even the exact address and phone number of the people you are searching for.  Be careful though because multiple people may show up in the search so you must be vigilant in determining your birth location and look for that location in the listing next to the names.


Finding your birth family can be a large personal victory.  I do not recommend just showing up at their front door!  Contact them first and let them know who you are and why you were searching for them.  It is not a good idea to start out with accusatory language for leaving you to the adoption agency.  I hate to say it, but be prepared for disappointment if they are not interested in meeting.  It could be too emotional for them after the separation and they may need time to warm up to the idea.  Remember, at this point you have been on this journey for quite some time now.   If all goes well and they are overjoyed to hear from you, congratulations!

Good luck on your search!  I hope some of this information can be useful, even if you are just searching for a long lost friend or other relative.  Remember to get your information out there!  The person that spawned this post is one of my friends from elementary school who posted her search for her birth parents on her Facebook account with a YouTube link.  If you can, please watch Anne’s video and let me or her know if you have any information!

Posthumous Freedom

A petition of freedom from 20 slaves who were fighting in the Revolutionary War to the New Hampshire General Assembly was unearthed 30 years ago in the state archives of New Hampshire by Valerie Cunningham, a historian and preservationist from Portsmouth.  The argument and irony of the petition has become well known to historians of the era and up to the Civil War that the colonists were fighting so hard for their own freedom from Great Britian yet were unable to see the plight of their slaves who wanted their own.  Their petition was ignored as it was deemed not the right time to free them.  Later, only 6 slaves were granted their freedom.

Now, 233 years later, it appears that the 14 slaves who were never granted freedom may receive it from the New Hampshire government.  It is a symbolic decision, obviously.  State Senator Martha Fuller Clarke is sponsoring the Senate bill, which has already passed through the Public and Municipal Affairs Committee and is now headed for the full Senate vote.  Governor Maggie Hassan has already agreed to sign the bill upon approval by the full Legislature.

It calls attention to efforts of community organizations to protect and preserve the African burial grounds, culture, and contributions of the people.  The African Burying Ground Committee in Portsmouth has been working for the past ten years to build a memorial park in an African-American burial ground in downtown.  The funds are just not available, however, their hope is to break ground this summer with their design, including granite engravings with passages from the petition.

What do you think?  Is it too little, too late?  Or a needed gesture?

If you’d like to see more about the African Burying Ground Committee, the cause, and possibly make a donation, you can visit their website at .

You can read more about this petition here at the Boston Globe and see more about the memorial here at the City of Portsmouth.


So today was my last class in graduate school!  I still have to turn in a final paper next week and take my comprehensive assessments in February, but that leaves a few things (ok maybe more than just a few things) that are going to change in a few months.  One of those things is this focus of this blog.  Much of what I have been writing with has been my struggles with studying, managing time, and just grad school in general.  I will be finding a new identity through this space so please bear with me and thanks for coming on this journey with me!  I appreciate you and your comments and support.

I’m considering looking more at teaching strategies, teachable moments, and effect lesson planning since my goal in life has been to be a history teacher.  Let’s hope I can find a job soon!

Secret City Symposium, a National Archives Atlanta FREE special event!

Good Monday morning all!  I received this in my email this morning so I thought I’d pass along the information!  How often do you get a free event that is just so awesome?!  I was just in Atlanta and these Archives are actually fairly easy to get to, though parking may be slightly expensive if you’re not from a big city.  I was amazing that we had to pay $10 for parking, but what do I know? Also, just an FYI, beginning October 1, 2012, these archives were opened for public research Monday through Friday and the third Saturday of the month.  For more information on the National Archives at Atlanta, please visit .  Now onward to the Secret City Symposium!

The National Archives at Atlanta is hosting the symposium Secret City in the Tennessee Hills: From Dogpatch to Nuclear Power on Saturday, September 15.   The purpose of this symposium is to promote research in our historically rich records dealing with the Manhattan Engineering District and the Atomic Energy Commission and highlight scholarly works based on these holdings.  Pre-registration is required and limited to 200.   There is no cost to attend. 

For more information on the symposium access the National Archives web link

OAH 2012: Thursday Review

Good evening from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the OAH conference!  Woke up this morning and was reminded of exactly where I am.  It was in the 30s this morning and only got into the 40s today. This Florida girl was cold!The registration this morning was busy but efficient!  The bags they always given away are appreciated.  Since my interests lay in teaching, naturally I am following along with the teaching track.  Thus, the first session I attended was:

Session 1: Reading and Writing Like Historians: Literacy in History Teaching

Chair: Bob Bain from the University of Michigan

Ben Hoffman, University of Maryland

Chauncey Monte-Sano, University of Maryland

Abby Reisman, Stanford University

This was an excellent session with very dedicated professionals with a deep interest in both education and history, but especially the combination or synthesizing of the two professions.  Dr. Bain opened the session discussing how “doing” history teaching is on an entirely different level than “doing” history.  What exactly are the tools that can be implemented to help teachers help student learn how to do history and historical thinking?  How do we teach the necessary critical thinking skill and assess it?

Dr. Monte-Sano and Ben Hoffman discussed their 3 year project on preparing 8th grade teachers to teach historical writing.  Their project revolved around implementing a three step process into document analysis associated with separate teacher coaching and education to help them understand the process themselves and how to teach it.  Monte-Sano and Hoffman wanted students to not only be able to pull the main idea out of a document, but to be able to form an opinion based on knowledge from the classroom and use these historical documents to support their opinion in a well-formed essay.  Definitely a higher level of critical thinking and organization for an 8th grade student.  Their project schools consisted of between 1200 – 1400 students, most of which were 2 grade levels below in literacy.  Their results were fascinating.  They shared essays that students had written after 3 “sessions” and then after 6 “sessions.”  The basic level readers had significant gains in their writing ability, including paragraph structure, documenting naming and use.  Monte-Sano and Hoffman presented two tools that they had the teachers use to coach their students: IREAD and “How to Write Your Essay.”

Next, Abby Reisman presented on teaching students to read history.  Her enthusiasm for her subject and work are unparalleled.  She challenged the audience to consider what are the precise things that we’re looking for the students to understand/gain and what do we want the end result to look like?  She discussed the evolution of school systems turning to the Common Core Standards (which 45 states have already adopted) and their positives and negatives for the history teacher.  One of the negatives is the deemphasis of the literacy in the historical/social studies sense.  They are essentially making it seem similar to general reading when in reality, we as historians and history teacher asks our students to look at different aspects such as the source and contextualization.

Dr. Reisman also challenged us to consider the documents we pick to teach with and offer to students.  Why are we picking that particular document?  What do I want the students to do with it/get from it/know at the end of the lesson?  It can be used as assessment or instructional.  What else would the student need to know to fully understand this document in a strictly knowledge sense?

She presented three types of comprehension in historical assessment: background knowledge, reading comprehension, and historical reasoning.  These three pieces come together to form a true historical analysis.  We can use texts as a way to analyze arguments because everything someone writes has some sort of argument.  What argument is the author making?  What type of supporting evidence did they use?  Is there anything they left out?  What point of view did they leave out?  What would you have written differently or added in?  We should not forget about using historical fiction as a possible teaching tool.  To get an oral component into the works, consider adding a debate at the end of a unit after analyzing numerous primary documents and potentially an essay have the students take sides.  Possibly rewrite their essay with information that they learned during the debate.

It is important to consider what the students themselves bring to the table in the classroom.  A major shift has occurred and is still occurring in some places to student-centered learning.  The students should always be at the center of lesson planning and not the other way around.

After an hour and a half lunch, it was on to Session 2: Teaching Ideas, Beliefs, and Culture in the Revised AP US History Course.  Presenters were Lawrence Charap from the College Board, Emma Lapsansky-Werner from Haverford College, and Ted Dickson from Providence Day School.

Lawrence opened the session by talking about the upcoming publication of the revised curriculum and framework for the AP exam.  The new curriculum will give teachers the flexibility to be able to go more in depth on topics of their choice while still keeping on track.  It will also be more focused on historical thinking skills- a bonus for any historian.

The new revised curriculum has 6 goals:

  • Maintain college credit and placement
  • Emphasize skills over memorization
  • Ease coverage pressure
  • Improve teacher flexibility
  • Include recent scholarship
  • Develop student thinking proficiency

The curriculum will focus on developing 5 historical thinking skills:

  • Crafting historical arguments from evidence
  • Chronological reasoning
  • Historical causation
  • Comparison and contextualization
  • Historical interpretation and synthesis

Not only will it focus on thinking skills, but also will revolve around 7 course themes that are easy to incorporate into any unit.

  • Work, Exchange, and Technology
  • Peopling
  • Ideas, Belief, and Culture
  • Politics and Power
  • America in the World
  • Environment and Geography
  • Identity

The College Board is also coming out with state alignment guides to align the AP curriculum/course with state standards and also a Common Core guide eventually.  For more information, please visit

In addition to Lawrence’s talk, Drs. Lapsansky & Dickson presented a booklet of information and ideas to help integrate art, music, poems, and literature into the history curriculum to enhance the teaching of culture/belief and ideas.  Major ideas in teaching through art of all forms revolve around bias and context as well as the intended audience.  These are all aspects of “thinking historically” that ties so wonderfully back to the first session.  I will post more information on this in a later blog where I will look deeper into the Document Based Question (DBQ), analyzing images & historical documents, and teaching students how to do so.

The third session was a Roundtable: The Warfare State since the Vietnam War.

Unfortunately the moderator, Corey Robin from Brooklyn College & City College of New York Graduate School could not make it to the conference, but the three presenters, Michael Allen from Northwestern, Beth Bailey from Temple, and Fredrik Logevall from Cornell, introduced each other and survived the session beautifully.  They presented varying perspectives on the Vietnam War and its impact on the current government and opinion of war.

Tomorrow I will be attending the 8:30am session about Teaching with Objects.  Then I will be hitting up the 10:00am walking tour of Historic Milwaukee (expect pictures!) and a trip to the Public Museum to see the Cleopatra exhibit.  Then at 5pm we have the graduate student pub tour!  Busy day tomorrow!

If you want any more information on anything that I talked about here, let me know and I’ll get you what I can!

Job Posts & Educational Opportunities

Just a few announcements that have been brought to my attention this week:

EUROPEUM Summer School:

This summer there will be a summer school organized by EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy in co-operation with Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence in European Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Charles University.

– It is the 10th year of this European Summer School organized in Prague;
– The title is Europe at the Crossroads;
– The event will take place from July 7 to July 19, 2012;
– Summer school is open to all university students from all over the world – diversity is a crucial aspect for us, last year we had students from 26 countries!
– Please see details about this event at<> or at the information leaflet

Università di Trento:

Università di Trento, LSE IDEAS-Cold War Studies Programme, and the European University Institute are jointly convening the Fourth Annual European Summer School on Cold War History at the Università di Trento, 5-8 September 2012.

The Summer School is a unique conference specifically for PhD students and early career researchers. It consist of workshops and panel sessions focused on submitted research papers, debates on historiography, broad interpretative issues and new research directions. The school offers an informal atmosphere in which new ideas and research directions can be shared and debated, be it in panel sessions, or over morning coffee or dinner.

The school has a very high student to faculty ratio (2:1) allowing particiants to have in depth discussions about their research with established scholars in the field. The facultly includes prominent scholars, among others:

  • Sara Lorenzini (Università di Trento)
  • Leopoldo Nuti (Università Roma 3)
  • Silvio Pons (Università di Roma Tor Vergata)
  • Oliver Rathkolb (Universität Wien)
  • Antonio Varsori (Università di Padova)
  • Marilyn Young (New York University)
  • Piers Ludlow (LSE)
  • Mario Del Pero (Università di Bologna)
  • Svetozar Rajak (LSE)
  • Federico Romero (EUI)
  • Antonio Varsori (Università di Padova)

Application Guidance
PhD students and early career researchers (no more than 3 years from PhD completion) are invited to submit proposals. We encourage submissions on any aspect of the Cold War, broadly defined. Of particular interest are papers that make use of newly available primary sources and innovative methodologies. Papers should not exceed 7,000 words (including citations in Chicago style).  At the School, each participant will give a 15 minute presentation (in English) followed by discussion with the faculty and students. The best paper will be submitted to Cold War History.

Applicants should submit a 300 word abstract and a brief academic CV (in one PDF document and in English. The CV should make clear the applicants nationality and stage of research). Please send these to Wes Ullrich at by 29 April 2012. Please note in the subject line of your email “CW Summer School 2012-Trento-YourLastName”. Notification of acceptance will be made by 1 June 2012. Successful applicants will be expected to email their papers by 16 August 2012.

The accepted students will provide for their own travelling expenses to and from Trento and pay a €50 registration fee. The School will provide board and lodging in Trento.

Job Opportunity in the Netherlands

The Roosevelt Study Center, in the Netherlands, has a vacancy for a three-year Postdoc position in September. The link below contains the job description.