Transcript: Teaching Award Acceptance Speech

18 Dec 2020 3:37 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

Michael Fuhlhage (00:03):

Hi, this is Michael Fuhlhage talking to you from the city of Detroit and Wayne State University. It is my profound honor to be selected for the national award for excellence in teaching. And I am so grateful to the American Journalism Historians Association for this award. I'm indebted to Erika Pribanic-Smith, who marshaled my nomination and my Wayne State University colleagues, Fred Vultee and Kat Maguire for their support of my nomination. I'm especially grateful to my graduate and my undergraduate students. More than anyone, they're my collaborators and co-creators, and they never fail to lift me up when I'm down. They always inspire me to be my best. And I'm thankful that I've been able to learn from and have the flame of my passion for history and writing fanned by some great teachers of my own. At North Carolina, Frank Fee, my advisor, Barbara Friedman, Lucila Vargas, Donald Shaw, William Barney, and Fitz Brundage. At the Missouri School of Journalism,

Michael Fuhlhage (00:59):

Earnest Perry, Lee Wilkins, Yong Volz, Don Ranly, and George Kennedy. And at the University of Kansas, Calder Pickett, Donald Worster, Paul Jess, and Tom Eblen. And here's a special shout out to Marcia Whittemore, my English composition teacher at Tonganoxie High School, and Marie McDaniel by junior high English teacher. Mrs. Mack was the best. Everyone, when you log off, find a way to locate the K through 12 teacher who gave you the fire for writing, and thank them, will you? Now, if I were able to do this in person with everybody in the same room, I would be calling out folks and sharing the love for what I've learned about teaching from all of you. Of course, that would take a lot of time. Feeding on the enthusiasm of everyone in this big research and teaching family of ours has made me a better teacher. So let's celebrate our obsessions with the past.

Michael Fuhlhage (01:51):

Our obsessions give us depth of knowledge and the fire of discovery, and I can't help but get excited along with you when you let your enthusiasm show. And that is the most important thing I can think of about teaching. Let your enthusiasm draw in your students. Your joy is infectious in the classroom and in collaboration and co-creation. We all love the archives. I always feel a sense of wonder when I encounter things that historical figures touched and created. So I try to recreate that wonder by bringing my own collection into the classroom for my students to experience. Share, tell, and invite them to make some meaning out of artifacts. It's it's, it''ll hook them. It's addictive. I always warn my students that I seed a lot of pop culture references into the classroom, and this talk is no exception. When you get them to feel the wonder of putting their hands on artifacts, you're sharing a Ben Kenobi moment with them.

Michael Fuhlhage (02:49):

If you'll pardon the Star Wars reference, you've taken them on their first step into a larger world. By way of a statement of my own way of teaching, I will draw from my teaching philosophy--just the lead and some bullet points. Okay, it's a long lead. We'll call it an anecdotal lead. So here goes: History is as alive as we are. And our students' grasp of how it influenced the development of journalism and mass media is vital to their ability to thrive in the field. It's up to us to convince the students that this is true, that learning to be a contributor to history through their own original research will make them better practitioners of their chosen field and that they have it within themselves to one day, be celebrated by future historians for their own contributions to journalism. I tell my students, I see journalism history as the story of the tension between control and conscience control pertains to attempts by government and other powerful actors to constrain what journalists and citizens do. Conscience guides journalists' responses to that. We explore that history together by feeding off one another's interests, enthusiasms, and aspirations while unearthing the past and the hidden, the marginalized and the forgotten people and struggles in journalism's past. In doing so, we learn more about each other, how we can be better scholars and human beings, and how to have fun all at the same time. So what follows are my guiding principles for teaching and learning? So here come the bullet points. First point:

Michael Fuhlhage (04:24):

Let your students' interests become your interests. Find out what your students aspire to do when their time with you is up. What historical events fascinate them, and which journalists do they admire the most? This can help you to identify topics that will fascinate them when the time comes for them to start doing historical research of their own. Second point: Meet the students where they are.

Michael Fuhlhage (04:50):

Do this regardless of their level of preparation and personal circumstances and regardless of their social identity. And regardless of whether we're in the classroom as usual, or if we were driven online by a global pandemic, this thing that's all around us right now. In the socially distanced virtual classroom, find ways to connect them with the resources that they need and base your teaching on what will serve their needs best. Third point:

Michael Fuhlhage (05:17):

Let inclusivity and diversity be a driver in your class. The canon that I was taught consisted mainly of white men, which was unacceptably limited, so enlist their help to expand the pantheon so it includes the underemphasized contributions that women and people of color made to journalism's development. For example, you can't teach history of investigative reporting, which I was taught mainly involved Woodward and Bernstein, without discussing the methods and motivations of Ida Tarbell, Ida B. Wells, and Elizabeth Cochran. Further, it's vital to remind students that these heroes' tales were overlooked until someone in their future recognized their value, which in turn implies that they, the students, can be the ones who resurrect the stories of the marginalized but deserving. Fourth point: Adaptability and flexibility are crucial. Winter 2020 presented a special challenge. The coronavirus pandemic led us to be cautious, shut down our campus, and shifted to remote learning.

Michael Fuhlhage (06:24):

My class was always driven by lecture, discussion, and hands-on examination of primary sources in about equal measures. I would draw from my own collection of antiquarian newspapers and magazines and other communication artifacts, such as petroglyphs, Edison cylinders, and retired lead type. I surveyed the students about their access to the internet and other circumstances that might hold them back. It became clear that not everyone could do Zoom live. So we went asynchronous, and we found low bandwidth ways to share lecture. I found digitized artifacts and created online discussions where we talked about them, again in a low bandwidth manner. We didn't do live Zoom. We had really lively discussion threads, though. So fourth point: Have fun. When I was an undergraduate, I heard W. Edwards Deming speak at the University of Kansas. The last point that he made--after describing how he helped Japanese automakers to refine their production systems using ideas that American companies had rejected--consisted of those two words, which he wrote on a chalkboard to punctuate the end of his presentation.

Michael Fuhlhage (07:33):

My test reviews are fun, and they're meaningful for my students because they pick what they think is the most important material to be tested on. They write multiple choice questions, and we review by running the review like a trivia contest, with historical artifacts like clippings from ancient comic strips or retired lead dingbat type as prizes. You can find this stuff pretty easily for not too much money on eBay. This puts students in charge of one another's learning in a lighthearted way. This way I do what Deming taught: to attain quality, empower everyone and have fun along the way. So I'll wrap this up with one final thought: Encourage your students to see their own potential by considering the achievements of previous generations, and empower students to be co-creators in learning and creating knowledge. I'm a curator of things that are knowable about communication history, but I'm not the master of all that. It's not possible for any one person to be that. Once I've learned about my students' interests, I help them become masters of the history of those interests. And by the end of the semester, our roles have shifted. And that makes me so proud with how much they've grown. And when I can see that my students have become my teacher, that is how I know that I've done my job. Again, I really appreciate this honor. Thank you for your time and your attention.


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