Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Whatever Wednesdays : Christina Meets Thomas Jefferson

It's the teenagers', "I don't really care", or, "I don't have any control over the situation, so you're going to do what you want, anyway, right?". So totally apathetic.

It's hard to reach many of these teenagers so I have made particular efforts with my Educational Travel Programs to engage students by adding hands-on activities and first person experiences which include musicians, historic reenactors/interpreters, and a supper with an historic person.

Two years ago, a school from Alaska, that I had been associated with for a number of years, had a clique of four 'whatever' girls within the larger group. Nothing seemed to affect or interest them until we had our intimate, Dinner with a Patriot, with Thomas Jefferson as our guest of honor.

Now the gentleman who portrays Mr. Jefferson (as Burgess, Governor of Virginia, or President) is a friend of mine. He is in great demand in Williamsburg, historic sites around the world, and conventions etc.; but he will make himself available, if possible, for my supper program.

He is both personally and professionally, charming, gracious, knowledgeable, and witty.

During the after dinner presentation and subsequent Q&A, it became evident by her uncharacteristic participation and demeanor, Christina was mesmerized.

Our next day was spent in Richmond at St. John's Episcopal Church's Patrick Henry reenactment and then on to Pamplin Historical Park (this was before they had the overnight) and ending at our hotel in Charlottesville.

We were the first group to arrive at Monticello; it was particularly romantic in the morning fog and dew. After visiting the home, dependencies, grounds, and gift shop, we departed for our last stop, Thomas Jefferson's grave, before walking (running) down the hill to our bus.

I gave a short speech about his monument, his epitaph, the differences in calendars, and some of the members of the Jefferson family in the cemetery. The group then disappeared down the winding trail, but Christina stood, transfixed, in front of the large iron fence that surrounded the cemetery and separated her from the grave.

She was weeping.

I called to her, but she wouldn't budge.

I approached her and asked if everything was, OK.
She looked at me, tears streaming down her cheeks and uttered, " It's so sad to see his grave; he was so nice!".

I suppose I could have taken her to task that she couldn't separate the actor from the man who had been dead 178 years, but I thought that it would have been insensitive at that moment. It was probably the first time she had been touched by history and I wanted to encourage her to learn more about him and understand why others who had truly known him had wept, too.

Her attitude completely changed after that incident and she convinced her friends to get involved with the various activities at Harpers Ferry, Gettysburg, and an Underground Railroad program.

The Principal of the school contacted me a couple of months later to tell me that Christina had completed an extra credit report which included a Power Point presentation on Jefferson.

It was quite good.

The Educational Tour Marm


teachergirl said...

That's all I want from history for my students - a little real life connection and the beginning of a love affair.

The Tour Marm said...


That is why I am such a proponent of historic character interpreters and add at least one of them into my program, despite the added cost. It's worth it because it's an intimate experience that engages them.

Whebn given a choice, I prefer to have a first person program over a dinner theatre or dance cruise(which is the usual DC evening).