New Course – Fresh Start

I just finished my first draft of the plan for my Modern Middle East course. I know that it is a draft because I always have to adjust as I go. I am really excited and just a little nervous about it. I know the rap on second semester seniors, and I have taught them before so I have experienced the slump. I hope that they will be invested enough to pull it off. The subject matter is too important for them to just sit passively and bide their time.

After looking for a book or two and feeling dissatisfied with my choices, I decided to rely on news sources, articles, and specific excerpts as needed. It feels like the right thing to do, but it is also a little risky because there is no text to default to.

In terms of assessments, I have decided to go public mainly. Student writing will be public in a class blog format that will be accessible to anyone with an internet connection. I am hoping to have students present research in a lunchtime forum format where anyone on campus can come. Given the subject matter, these seem appropriate. I am also planning to have students analyze a news source as an assessment. I am thinking I will assign them an online news source when they arrive in class and they will need to provide a briefing for the articles they find related to the Middle East. That will help me know whether or not I am achieving my goal of having them really able to understand the region enough to make sense of the events.

I saw a fabulous Frontline episode on Syria today which I am hoping to show the end of the first week. It provides an underground look into the resistance and an analysis of how the country got there with the historical context of the Assad regime. It will provide a good touchstone for comparison as well as a model for how we can learn. Get grounded in the current events and then provide the analysis of what has led there.

I also hope to get speakers with some expertise on the region to Skype into the class to provide us with an outside perspective.

I am putting this out there to process it in my mind, and also for my PLN to scrutinize. I am open to suggestions and words of wisdom/caution.



2 thoughts on “New Course – Fresh Start

  1. I just wanted to let you know that I have been teaching the history of the Modern Middle East for years. I have all sorts of resources and insights that I would be pleased to share. I noticed that you mentioned Frontline, make sure that you check their archive, LOTS of great documentaries. Also, is a great resource. If you want your students to get a different perspective, try some of of the documentaries from Al Jezeera. I brought in speakers and former students who studied in the Middle East via Skype and the student felt that these were the most valuable lessons. Good luck and feel free to email more if you have any questions. BTW: are you part of SSCHAT?


    • Thanks for the tips. I plan on having them regularly read Al Jazeera online along with more familiar sources like CNN, BBC, and NYT. I am excited about this course. I plan to have them start off reading the introduction to Robin Wright’s Dreams and Shadows. Since I want to be responsive to what is happening, I am planning a little more loosely than I might otherwise. Thanks for your offer to help via email. I will likely take you up on it. And yes- I am part of SSCHAT. It is a terrific groups of teachers.

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