Picture from dancarlin.com
All great teachers know that they are really perpetual students. They must continually expand their subject knowledge and skills if they hope to evolve as teachers and as individuals. However, with so many school demands, there are not many hours left to devote to betterment. For example, I don’t know any history teachers (who are real history buffs) who wouldn’t love to settle down with a book full of intriguing non-fiction stories about the past — but, who has the time?
Luckily, I found a solution to this a few years ago … audiobooks. It is kind of my nerdy indulgence, but it has allowed me to “read” tons of books that I otherwise wouldn’t have had time for. I no longer dread things such as commutes, house cleaning, and other mindless chores since I know I can continue with my book.
The only problem is audiobooks are expensive, so I had to slow down my consumption. While looking for something free to listen to between audiobooks, I stumbled upon quite a few really great podcasts (which brings me to the point of this post).
By far one of my favorites is Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. Every few months Carlin does a podcast where he discusses some interesting point in history. However, he doesn’t just tell you what happened — he really digs into the story and talks about unique details, personalities, and how specific events shaped our current world. It really is good stuff. Sometimes I find my attention fading during History Channel type documentaries (and those have pictures), but never while listening to Hardcore History — I am always rapt from beginning to end. I know it must sound like I work for the podcast, but I don’t … I just really like it.
Besides just being entertaining, it can also help your teaching. I find the best way to get students interested in history is by telling them some of the strange and obscure facts about a story. For instance, you can tell them Idi Amin was a dictator who killed hundreds of thousands of people and, surprisingly, they will forget this (they’ve heard it all before). However, if you tell your students he was a dictator who killed hundreds of thousands of people and was said to have kept severed heads in his fridge, they will remember his name forever. I guarantee even when they’re grown with computer and paralegal jobs, they will remember that story This is kind of a gruesome example, but you get the point — you always need a hook.
Hardcore History is full of such hooks. The most recent episodes are free or you can pay for older podcasts (usually $0.99 to $1.99). The shows are available for download on his site, dancarlin.com, or in the App Store.
If you decide to listen, let me know what you think and what episode is your favorite.