Well, OK Then... (Introduction)
Several years ago, a veteran (i.e., ‘really old’) teacher with whom I had the pleasure to work shared a story about a colleague who’d years before sat in on several of her classes one week as part of some sort of required peer evaluation process. Because of the requirements of that year’s revolutionary Paperwork Trail to Save Education, this young man had visited off and on over several days – just watching, and listening.
This was before smart phones, so the best he could do when distracted was doodle. Poor guy.
This particular long-time educator was one of those ladies who knew more stories and fascinating bits of miscellany than most of us will ever even encounter, and once begun, a class could end up pretty much anywhere, curricularly-speaking. This meant that no two class periods were the same, no matter what the plan had been when the week started. That was OK, since her stories were always relevant and usually rather memorable.
It didn’t do much for our ‘common assessment’ efforts, but that’s not really the point at the moment.
At the end of his required visitation, the visiting teacher asked her where she got all of her stories – her anecdotes about so many different people and situations and times in Oklahoma History. She was a bit taken back, and tried not to sound rude as she explained that while a few came from family folklore, most came from… books.
“Books? Which ones?”
“Well… um, a variety of books, I guess. And talking to people over the years who teach and write, or who were there. I try to soak it all in, and sometimes I remember things that I can use in class.”
Like the rich young ruler in the Gospels, the fellow went away disappointed. He’d been hoping, it seems, that somewhere in her Mary Poppins style bag was the Oklahoma History Teacher’s Guide to Just the Right Anecdote (each of which would align with state standards and still manage to be somewhat interesting). Instead, it seemed, he would just have to ‘read a lot’ – or continue teaching without the stories.
I laughed at her account, but the poor fellow’s basic hope wasn’t so very unfounded. There are books out there full of little known tales of the Old West, secrets of American History, strange happenings in whatever place you happen to be – including the often-maligned and marginalized State of Oklahoma (where the wind, I assure you, really does come sweeping down the plains).
What I don’t see an abundance of, however, are manageably-sized chunks of Okie goodness – the characters and events that we all feel like we should know (and which are certainly in every new edition of state standards, no matter how often they revise or rewrite them) – for teachers who are perfectly capable and have as many degrees as anyone, but who maybe haven’t had the time to fully immerse themselves in the wonders of the ‘Red River War’ or those zany Green Corn Rebellion-ers.
They can, of course, simply digest the same textbooks as their students. Unfortunately, most Oklahoma textbooks are horribly bland – as if knowing the 77 counties and 10 geographical regions were enough excitement for one semester and they don’t want to risk overdoing it. The few good ones with which I’m familiar are too detailed for easy general use – six pages on the Mound Builders is five and a half pages too many when freshmen attention spans are in play.
As I've begun compiling what were originally intended to be "chapters," I realized that while some parts were as "bite-sized" as originally intended, other bits are more extensive. Once or twice I may even ramble. Whatever else you'll find here, it's neither consistent nor predictable. Hopefully that will prove a feature rather than a bug.
There are certainly many people smarter than me, especially when it comes to Oklahoma History. Likewise, there are those who can make peeling a potato the most fascinating and engaging lesson plan you’ve ever imagined. In short, there’s no shortage of people better qualified than myself to offer up a collection of stories and commentary for teachers without the kind of time my veteran friend had invested, but who are nevertheless trying to make state history as reasonably engaging as possible for their captives.
As soon as one of them writes such a thing, I’ll link to them and suggest you consult theirs before coming to me. Until then…
I hope you find some of these useful. Suggestions or corrections are welcome. As I started throwing things together, I thought it useful to include some of the more interesting primary sources related to the tales herein - some with my witty, brilliant commentary, others simply ready-to-print and use in whatever way you see fit. I'm pretty sure they're all old enough that copyrights are not an issue. If I'm mistaken, just let me know and I'll adapt.
Well, OK Then...