Accepting what I don’t know: Outreach and Educators

I’ve worked with educators as part of my Teaching American History in South Carolina experience. I’ve assisted in teacher workshops at the National Archives in Philadelphia.

I’m not an educator.

I’m an archivist and a historian. The way I approach, search, and handle documents is inherently different. I’ve learned to embrace it especially when it comes to engaging with educators.

I know what educators face in the classroom and the problems with administration but that is not my lived experience.  One of the toughest challenges I face in my position is reaching out to educators. I love what they do and I want to support them any way I can.  However, I don’t know the first thing about what they want or need from me as an outreach professional.

In my relatively short time, I’ve had the privilege of learning from a really great outreach professional and retired teacher, Buck Cole at the General Land Office.  Buck was one of the first outreach person I reached out to in my first few months on the job.


Here we are at TSLAC’s exhibit opening, Wish You Were Here, (my second exhibit at TSLAC). Outreach professionals supporting each other for the win!

It’s through Buck that I’ve had the opportunity to meet Texas educators and hear their frustrations. The lesson plans offered by archives and libraries are great but, as one educator remarked, who has the time to teach it? The other teachers nodded silently.  That, friends, was a splash of cold water to the face.

In my outreach, I want to connect people to the wonderful records stored in archives.  But, I’ve had to recognize my limitations. I had to accept what I don’t know. I’m not an educator.  Therefore, I can’t and shouldn’t create products for educators if I don’t consult them and/or involve them in the process.  By doing so, they [teachers] now have a vested interest. Not only that, teacher-produced lessons or short activities carry more weight among the education crowd.  More likely to give it a read through to see if it can be adapted to their class.

In watching and learning from Buck and sitting in on his educator workshops, I’ve seen firsthand how archives and educators can have a mutually beneficial and, possibly, long lasting relationships.

I don’t know what educators want or need from me but I’m embolden enough to ask. And, most importantly, listen to what they have to say and involve them in the process.





About Ashley S

I'm an archivist!
This entry was posted in Archives, Outreach, Professional and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Accepting what I don’t know: Outreach and Educators

  1. Pingback: Listen, plan, be flexible | NixoNARA

  2. If a lesson plan is posted online but teachers never see or use it, does it really exist? Sounds like it might as well not exist. There was a time when I used to worry about those things, and I miss it sometimes. I’m glad to hear that you’re still out there fighting the good fight for history education. Keep us the good work!

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