Author Archives: mrrizer
It’s been four long years and this is the last blog that I am required to write. Well, readers, I can’t say that I will not post about any other portion of this last trip, but if I had one place from the New York trip I wanted to save for last, it is definitely the 9/11 Memorial.
We were very fortunate to be able to go to the memorial because it had only been open for less than a month when we got there. This is a place that everyone in America needs to go. I found it to be a very moving experience, and since that fateful morning is forever burned into my brain, this memorial was the one that affected me the most.
I don’t want to go into great detail about what you can expect when you go into the museum, but I would want to warn you that when you go into the main exhibit hall, (in the area that used to be the North Tower), make sure to have some tissue (though there are places that provide it) and be prepared to have a lump in your throat numerous times. Also, there are rooms that have viewer’s discretion-like warnings, and you should probably think carefully if you want to expose yourself to it.
Not since the Holocaust Memorial have I been so moved by an exhibit. There are many places where I was overwhelmed by the things I was seeing. I felt the rush of so many emotions: dread, disgust, anger, sorrow.
As I walked through, I remembered a high school substitute teacher telling us about walking the hallways of Antelope Valley High School when he heard of the death of John F. Kennedy. He told us that our generation would have that historical moment that would define our generation…and he was right. The 9/11 Memorial did a great job of showing that dreadful day with dignity and decorum.
That said, I think there is one thing that needs to be worked on in this memorial that the Holocaust Memorial got right: explaining to the audience proper etiquette while walking through this sacred place. I saw numerous people taking big-smiley pictures, talking loudly, and laughing while people walked through the exhibits. The Holocaust Memorial did a great job of developing a somber, meditative mood before allowing guests to enter into the galleries. There was no real space that took the time to tell the audience what appropriate behavior and attitude would be in a place like this.
This might be part of what I would want to discuss with students, though it may not be directly linked with American History or English, it has to do with acting correctly in social situations. Maybe some simple discussions about how behavior should change in different environments. Sometimes people need to be told because often we are not very good at recognizing inappropriate behavior before it happens.
Think about it. How many times do we get the messages of shutting off phones and don’t put feet on seatbacks in movie theaters? How many times do we get told no flash photography in certain situations? It is okay to tell people how to behave. Sometimes we need it.
Aside from the social lessons that I gleaned from the 9/11 Memorial, the other thing I really would want to teach to students is the importance of what happened that day. We are about to enter the final year with students who were in school when the 9/11 attacks happened. Before long, this attack will be ancient history to students. We need to make sure that students do not look at what happened with the same sorts of eye rolls that we get from other historical events. No, better than that, we need to ensure that as we teach any historical events, they see the importance on a more personal level. They may not always be able to make connections easily, but even when students are reading fiction, I try to have them make certain connections to things they understand. I know this can be difficult, but it is necessary.
On one of bussing days, we went to see the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Through the readings and discussions, I have learned quite a bit about Roosevelt, much more than I knew before. The museum on the Roosevelt property did a great job of showing much of the information, painting a picture of a president who was loved by the American public and respected by our allies. He is portrayed as a man of strength in spite of a physical ailment associated with his contracting polio who helped pull America out of the Great Depression and guided her through most of the second World War.
The museum focuses on Roosevelt’s keen use of radio and his famous Fireside Chats as crucial to help build his support from the American public. It shows his camaraderie with Winston Churchill leading up to and through World War II. It also gave a fair amount of exposure to Eleanor Roosevelt, who continued to champion civil rights (even to the point of resigning from the Daughters of the American Revolution). While one can safely say that the museum focuses on the positive legacy of a popular president, it also did a great job of showing that not everyone was completely sold on FDR’s policies.
Continuing with the concept of teaching multiple perspectives, this would be a fun lesson: Have students evaluate much of the rhetoric on both sides of FDR. Some people saw him as an excellent president who saved them from utter financial destruction. Others saw him, as a man who would was a mystery, sphinxlike, who was going to slowly lead the nation into financial ruin or worse. They could complete some research about the effect Roosevelt had on the presidency, the Great Depression, and World War II. They could use the political cartoons, letters, and other primary sources to draw conclusions about who is giving the most accurate portrayal of who Roosevelt truly was for the nation.
After visiting Roosevelt’s home, we went to visit the “Country Home” of one of the Vanderbilt’s. I have to say that the Gilded Age is one area of American history that I really don’t know much about. The tour of the Vanderbilt house (though a little limited with information) has caused me to want to do a little more reading about the rise and fall of this financial empire.
Well, the one afternoon that I was given to explore on my own was a bit of a flop. We were told that we could go and find things that would be beneficial for us in our classroom. So, I did a little bit of research and found the Schomberg Center of the New York Public Library in Harlem. I had been looking for some exhibit for the Harlem Renaissance, but after striking out there, I found this location that had two exhibitions: “Phenomenal Woman: Maya Angelou” (who died this year) and “On the Road to Integration: Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.” I thought that both of these could be pretty useful in the classroom. I’ll get to these in a minute.
First, I decided to spend a little time in the graffiti exhibit at the City Museum. This was actually pretty cool, and it brings up some interesting sides of the debate of graffiti. I think that it is hard to deny the artistic ability of the people who do graffiti, but my family has actually been a victim (although only slightly) of graffiti. The question arises, though: should graffiti be illegal?
We spend a lot of time in my class dealing with multiple perspectives on issues, and I think this exhibit did a great job handling some of these sides. They even had quotes from different people about their views on graffiti. This was a great exhibit.
After a short lunch, we grabbed a bus to get to the Schomburg Center. Okay, rookie mistake: never take the bus in New York City. I know for a fact the bus we were on was lapped by another bus with the same route. It took FOREVER to get to the Schomburg Center. When we finally arrived, I saw the “exhibitions.” They were two six-foot glass cases with selected artifacts in them. That was it.
The Maya Angelou exhibition included some edited transcripts of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a couple of letters, and an edited sheet of the inaugural poem she wrote for Bill Clinton. I could possibly use this in class to show not only that authors do, in fact, edit their own work, but also to consider what the impact of the changes were to the finished product. This could be very useful in my Creative Writing class.
The Brown v. Board of Education exhibition was even more limited, but the one thing that really stuck with me was one little picture. It was a prom picture from March of this year. It was an interracial prom picture from the first racially integrated school-sponsored prom in Wilcox County High School in Georgia. It blew my mind that this is still a problem in 2014. Now, I’m no fool. Obviously race relations have a long way to go in this country, but how can this be? (And how did I miss this on the news?) I think this could spur some lively discussion in my classrooms.
It’s barely worth mentioning, but I did go and see the Motown exhibit that they had at the Schomburg Center as well. It was much better, and I found it engaging. Unfortunately, I have not really come up with a solid use for that exhibit (especially since I couldn’t take any pictures of it either).
Oh, well. I think I made the best with the locations I chose for that afternoon. I can see some great uses of this information in my class.
Growing up in California, I have seen my fair share of large bridges. I did not think that I could be quite so amazed by the Brooklyn Bridge. It really is an amazing structure, where form and function truly come together. But as we learned more about the bridge, I found myself much more captivated by it.
The original engineering plans for the Brooklyn Bridge was John Roebling, who never saw the plans come to fruition due to an accident where a docking boat crushed his foot, from which he caught tetanus and died sixteen days later.
John Roebling was succeeded by his son Washington Roebling. Washington Roebling had been involved in the development of the plans, and he proved himself worthy to take on the job.
To build the two towers of the Brooklyn Bridge, caissons (large wooden boxes with no bottoms) were used. Like an upside down bowl in a sink maintains an air bubble, the caissons provided a place for the men to work as they dug toward bedrock, although on the Manhattan side of the bridge, bedrock was never actually reached. The stone towers were built atop the caissons.
In a day when most suspension bridges were built with iron, Roebling chose steel for the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge consists of 25,000 steel wires (about 15,000 miles) looped and cemented in on both sides of the East River.
I really think the Brooklyn Bridge might just be the lesson I want to teach about in class, because I have found a great article from Harper’s Monthly from the month the bridge opened for use.
The Brooklyn Bridge also serves as a place for inspiration. Poets like Hart Crane and Marianne Moore, musicians like Frank Sinatra, and many artists and photographers have looked at the imposing stone structures and the sturdy steel cables and still found an elegance and a beauty that has continued for over a century. I think I would like to have students really look into the bridge’s history and a sampling of poems and songs (and even artwork) and complete some close readings about what these different pieces are saying about the importance of the bridge itself.
It truly is a magnificent piece of engineering!
So much for blogging while on the trip, but what can I say? I had the choice to spend the evenings working on my blog or to go out into the city to experience the city. Guess which one I picked. While my choice might not have added much to the historical side of the trip, I certainly believe that it gives me a better grasp of the New York experience.
For those who are my Facebook friends, you know that the days of the walking tour of the trip really took their toll on my feet, my neck, and my back. Though it was sore going for a while, I learned quite a bit. As I achingly walked around the city, one theme really began to emerge: the failure of New York to preserve historical sites through the years.
I remember going through the Ellis Island exhibits, becoming a little upset that the vast majority of artifacts were not there. They had been taken away after Hurricane Sandy. While this was frustrating, what became much more frustrating was the number of times we were told what used to be at the different spots on our tour.
One such site was the Stadt Huys Block, which included Stadt Huys, or the Dutch City Hall. This building was built in 1641 and served as the settlement’s city hall even after the English took over the settlement. Due to the limited space in New York and the value of real estate there, people just built over historical sites like this one for centuries.
In fact, there were numerous incidents where we were shown the way things are now in comparison to how things used to be. We would all gather around a very modern street, and the person guiding us would hold up a picture to show how it used to look.
(The painting is Five Points, painted by George Catlin in 1827.)
The list of areas completely built over went on and on through our visit. One of the more shocking areas that was built over was the African Burial Ground that existed during the Dutch settlement all the way through the late 1700s, after the United States became its own independent nation. It was rediscovered in the early 1990s during the construction of office buildings. Since then, it has progressed from its rediscovery to becoming a National Landmark and eventually a National Monument.
Legislation was passed to help protect historical sites in the 1960s (The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966), and New York extended this legislation for their own state in the 1980s (The New York State Historical Preservation Act of 1980). These pieces of legislation helped to preserve and protect historical sites as they were discovered and developed.
One thing I would like to really drive home with students is the importance of preserving sites. It was maybe a little tragic to think how many historical treasures are lost forever. I think one way to really drive this home is to have students think about what has happened in recent history that should be remembered. Interestingly, I think the 9-11 Memorial (which I will probably have to cover later) would be one of those sites that does a good job of ensuring the preservation of an important event in our nation’s history.
What a day. It is currently 11:05 local time, and I am trying to get up the drive to write this blog with burning feet and a pounding headache. Well, griping aside–time to get to the blog.
Initial reaction to New York. I have to be honest, it wasn't good. Between the messed up Starbucks order and the strong smell of urine that seemed to come from everywhere, New York took some getting used to.
Our first stop was the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. We did not take the time to head up to the top since there is really no purpose other than a touristy stop. I will say I really enjoyed the ride over to the statue, and Lady Liberty was looking beautiful despite the hazy day. I also found out that today was the anniversary of the day it arrived from France (thanks, Jon).
After our trip to see the Statue of Liberty, we went on to Ellis Island. Unfortunatly, many of the artifacts were not there due to Hurricane Sandy. It was still pretty amazing to look at the Great Hall, imagining the millions of people who moved through the island. A couple of interesting things that I saw when I went through Ellis Island. 1) The misconception that names were Anglicanized when they came to Ellis Island. Our guide, Ed, explained that the changing of names happened where they came from. Another thing I found interesting was that there were professional spotters looking for people who had possible ailments as people walked up the stairs to the Great Hall. Robbie also showed me a pair of columns that had graffiti on them. I posted one of the better ones for you.
Ellis Island is rich with history and individual stories that students could really get into and learn about some struggles that are completely outside their technologically-driven lives. Spending a little time showing them the life of people as they came through the island not only have strong potential close reading lesson ideas, but I also think there are plenty of writing opportunities as well. I could have my writing students do a little research about what it was like to be processed on Ellis Island after a long sea voyage; then, they can write a fictionalized account using the information they found in the research.
Next, we went to Katz's Deli. The one from When Harry Met Sally…you know… “I'll have what she's having.” The pastrami reuben was very good, and I would recommend you give it a try.
We then went on a walking tour of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I will have toblog aabout this part a little more tomorrow. Take a look at this tenement housing in the picture below and think about what life inside might have been like in the mid-to-late 1800s. I will have to post more tomorrow. It's late, I'm tired, it's going to be hot tomorrow, and we are supposed to be walking even more tomorrow. WooHoo!
Until then… goodnight!
Well, it is about that time. Less than one month until I head out for another year of travels.
It's a little unfortunate that I didn't take the time to really write much last year because there was so much to see. I think that before I head out to New York this year, I'm going to at least post some of the more interesting photos from last year. Keep an eye out for that post coming in a couple weeks.
Anyway, since we are actually required to journal this year, I have some obvious motivation to post to this blog again. Hopefully I will find the time to get that accomplished in the high-paced New York experience.
By the way, I am trying out a new piece of software to prepare this blog today. I like it, but it’s going to take some getting used to.
So, we have a very long five hours of driving today. This will hopefully give me some time to do some blogging.
Two days ago, we went to Boone Hall Plantation. After spending a little time in the gardens, we went inside the house, where we could not take pictures (and if you know me, you probably know how much I love that).
Boone Hall is the longest continuously running plantation, producing indigo, rice, pecans, and even bricks over the years. Of course, up until the end of the Civil War, much of the work had been done by slaves, both Native and Black.
The plantation has a row of slave quarters that shows different aspects of slave life. One of the rooms had a list of slaves shipped in through Charleston. Interestingly, the last two shipments of slaves from Africa were in 1858, fifty years after importing slave was outlawed.
Much of the slave quarter displays discussed the gullah culture, which was accentuated by the presentation of a local woman who recited two of her poems in gullah, one of which she recited the poem in English as well. She discussed how the different people, slaves and masters, influenced each other in all aspects of life. African slaves came from many different African tribes and nations, worshipped different gods, and sometimes even were at war with one another. The slaveholders were also from different culture: the Dutch, the French, the English, the Spanish, and so forth.
Frankly, I really liked her poems. I was able to grab a recording of them both, and if you don’t mind a little shaky hand, I can show it to you when I get back.
Then, we went on a walking tour of Charleston. It was interesting, and we got to see a couple of interesting sights, but often I couldn’t hear what the tour guide was saying. Two things that did stand out to me: P. T. Beauregard’s headquarters and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. I will have to save Beauregard for one-on-one conversations (you’ll understand when I tell you). I found St. Michael’s interesting because it was easily seen from the harbor. In fact, during the Revolutionary War, the tower was painted black because the British were using it as a target when firing upon Charleston from the harbor.
We then finished up at the Old Slave Mart Museum, which was opened in what used to be Ryan’s Mart, one of the largest slave markets of the time. In the 1850s, the city of Charleston made it illegal to sell slaves out on the streets, causing the creation of about 40 slave marts like Ryan’s Mart. The woman who was describing the treatment of slaves really caught my attention when she discussed the way slaves were prepared for sale: coloring or plucking out gray hair, oiling up the skin, and having them exercise to tone their muscles before going up to be presented for sale. Although I have heard all of this before, I suddenly made the connection to FFA students preparing an animal for show. I’m not sure why the realization hit me so hard, but the connection was pretty powerful. I knew slaves were seen as possessions, like cattle, but this was the clearest analogy for me.
The next day, we took a ferry out to Fort Sumter, the place where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Six days after South Carolina seceded from the Union, Major Robert Anderson secretly took command of Fort Sumter. On the following day, Fort Moultrie, Fort Johnson, and Castle Pickney were occupied by Confederate volunteers. Fort Sumter remained in Union hands, and on April 11, Brigadier General P. T. Beauregard demanded Anderson surrender Sumter to the Confederacy. At daybreak on April 12, Confederate forces all around Fort Sumter began firing, which continued through the day and night. At 2 o’clock in the afternoon, Anderson surrendered Sumter to the South, in whose hands it remained until it was evacuated on February 17, 1865.
While we were at Fort Sumter, the teachers were able to participate in raising the five flags that flew over Fort Sumter during the Civil War.
In Fort Sumter, we were able to see damage from cannon fire.
After visiting Fort Sumter, we went to kayak down Quenby Creek to see rice fields and rice impoundments. I have to admit that I could not hear the tour guide much, and when I did, I had nothing to write with. Unfortunately, we were unable to get as far as we wanted because we were hit by a torrential downpour and a very close lightning storm. Needless to say, since our paddles were nice long lightning rods, we hurriedly paddled back to the loading dock. We were soaked! In fact, one of our group actually tipped his kayak. Unfortunately, the rain did not subside, and much to the chagrin of our group, we could not continue on the kayaking trip.
What a great couple of days! I hope you enjoy the pictures.
As someone new to the South, I quickly learned that nothing dries here. I went out for a little morning walk to Starbucks (yes, I needed it), and on the way back to the hotel, I held the very sweaty Starbucks Double Shot on Ice against my shirt, and it wasn’t dry nearly an hour later.
So, I’m going to try to give the HL Hunley a little more treatment as we take the bus to our first stop of the day. The Confederate submarine was the first submarine to sink an enemy ship.
The first thing that I found very interesting about the Hunley was just how small it is. She is a whopping 42 feet long; at her broadest point, she is a 48×42 inch oval. This is where the crew would be turning a massive crank to propel the submarine. The hull access opening was a mere 21×16 1/2 inches.
This leads me to the second interesting point about the Hunley. The crew that accompanied the Hunley to her over 130-year resting place was the third crew to sink; she had been sunk three times in less than a year. She sank when she succeeded in sinking the Housatonic by ramming a torpedo into the hull of this blockade ship and detonating it.
The third thing that I found interesting was the gold coin of Hunley commander George Dixon. The legend is that Lt. Dixon was saved by the gold coin when he was shot at the Battle of Shiloh. This legend gained credence when the Hunley was excavated. Inside the wreckage, a gold coin was found near Dixon’s remains. On the coin, an inscription can be read that states:
April 6, 1862
My Life Preserver
On one side, you can clearly see where the bullet hit the coin (look in the upper right quadrant of the heads side of the coin.
I really enjoyed looking through the conservation and history of the Hunley. It is now late at night, and I am getting ready for bed. Tomorrow, I hope to discuss Boone Hall Plantation and a little bit about the slave trade, including Gullah culture.
I am going to make a quick post here. I will be more thorough later…
Here are some photos of the HL Hunley. I will post more information about it tomorrow… hopefully. Just remember that 3am came awfully early this morning.
This bottom photo is based on a scan of this Confederate submarine, which helped her excavation.
More to come…