Reflecting on 40 years as a history teacher (short version)

My love of learning and reading comes from my parents, John and Leota Arendale. I was the first of anyone in the family tree to attend college. I had a simple dream of teaching history at a community college. I remember during my first semester at Emporia State University talking with my academic advisor. I expressed my dream and then the advisor told me to give it up since no history positions had been advertised for a community college history teacher in Kansas for more than a decade. Most often, part-time college instructors who were full-time high school history teachers were promoted for full-time college employment. I rejected the advice from that adviser and pursued my undergraduate and graduate degrees in history.

My first position was teaching history at Pratt Community College (KS) which was half the size of the large psychology course taught at the University of Minnesota (UMN). After seven years, I accepted a similar position at another tiny community college in Highland, KS. Next on my journey was the University of Missouri at Kansas City where I helped lead the National Center for Supplemental Instruction. While at UMKC, I helped conduct training workshops for other colleges how to implement SI at their campus to help students do better in difficult courses, I wondered what it would be like applying principles from the SI student study group program to teaching a history class.

One should be careful what they wish for. I was recruited for a history position with General College at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (UMN). I continued that role with the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning and again with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction from where I will retire at the end of May 2019. My best memories of four decades in higher education include learning from my students, mentorship by my colleagues, and the friendships that were formed. I was fortunate to live out my dream of teaching history. And working at an institution that I might not have been admitted to after high school graduation. Life is a curious journey.

The reason for including the photo of Tom Hanks from "Forrest Gump" is that I think my journey is somewhat like the film character. Maybe you remember the final scene in the movie as Forrest watches his son enter the bus for the first day of school. A feather that Forrest was using as a book mark fell out and floated into the sky as Forrest, Jr. drove off to school. The narration by Tom Hanks reflected on his life and how he experienced a variety of unpredictable events along his journey. I think the same thing about me. I think of the guiding hand of God in an amazing series of events that led me to the University of Minnesota. So, whether you see it as chance or divine providence that guides a person's path, it certainly is a curious journey. I am a fortunate soul to have experienced it. I hope you are having the same satisfaction with your journey as well. Thanks for reading — David Arendale

Remembering Jim, my Big Brother

Remembrance of Jim, my Big Brother

After a long struggle with complications of diabetes, my brother passed in April 2017.  He was 70 years of age.  I miss him dearly but I celebrate a life well lived, rich with the places he visited and the people he called family and friends.  A person’s life is sometimes defined by the memories held by others and the items that are left behind.  They are the evidence of a person’s passions and values.

To know Jim is to know his love of jazz music.  He enjoyed classic and new-age jazz.  A favorite artist was Miles Davis playing during the visitation today.  When I see a bottle of Tabasco sauce on the table, I sometimes remember his fond memories of visiting New Orleans, listening to jazz legends on Bourbon Street, and his side trip along the Gulf Coast to Avert Island which is the home and manufacturing location of Tabasco Sauce.

To know Jim is to know his love of wildlife and cats.  Jim enjoyed his cats.  His last pair were a brother and sister he rescued after someone abandonened them in the industrial district where Jim worked.  They were named Molly and Wiley.  Other cats spoiled by Jim were Gladys and Ben.  Jim had a pillow on his bed with the following message that exhorted him On the table is a pillow that reminded him to “be the kind of person that his cats wanted him to be”.  The birds were enjoyed by Jim and also by the cats as they peered out the front screen door.  Jim had up to ten bird feeders surrounding his home.  Those birds we miss Jim greatly next winter.  In honor of his love of cats, we recommend any gifts in his memory be sent to the animal rescue center indicated in the program card as you entered the room.  He often visited the Leoss Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge, formerly named the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge north of Kansas City.

To know Jim is to know his love of camping, fishing, and nature.  One of his favorite memories was camping for the entire summer in Colorado.  Another is the time he was invited by Mike McGonigle and his father to accompany them on a historic fishing trip in Canada.  Jim also liked to collect rocks and geodes since he had a passion for nature and science.

To know Jim is to know his love of coffee.  He began each day with reading the New York Times Newspaper, brewing a pot of exotic coffee he has freshly ground, and enjoying each cup.  He especially liked the international coffees he bought at Sprouts grocery stores.  When I came down to Kansas and visit, my favorite memories were sitting at the dining room table in the morning, drinking some of his fresh brewed coffee, discussing world events, and just enjoying one another’s company.  When I drink coffee, I think of Jim.

To know Jim is to know that he was a foodie.  One way to define is a foodie is the person enjoys different types of food, prepares food for others, collects food, or collects cookbooks.  Jim did all four.  At one time, he was a Chef at the Prospect Restaurant near Westport, Kansas City.  Much of his career since then has been as a fish whole seller with several firms in the region.  His previous career as a chef gave him a unique way of relating to the chefs of white table cloth restaurants and meat marketers in Kansas City when he became a seller of fish rather than preparing fish.  Jim was thankful for the way the company treated him and the people he had the chance to work with and for.  He was happy that he had the opportunity to work with the top chefs and meat marketers of Kansas City and encourage and inform them to creatively use seafood from around the world with their customers.

My brother was many things.  I most remember his friendship and kindness to me.

-- David Arendale

Monsters University: The Way All Colleges Should Set up Web Sites

I watched the Pixar animated movie, Monsters University, this evening. My history classes at University of Minnesota start up after Labor Day. As part of promotion for the movie, the Pixar animators created a website for the university with short videos touting the school's features, academic expectations, and the like. The website has been taken down (a victim of frequent hacking), but the short videos live on through a YouTube channel dedicated to it. In addition, to be very funny, the videos actually communicate some deep messages about belonging, academic and social opportunities, and the value of attending college. Take a look. Click on this link to go to the YouTube page so you can watch other videos.

Living with Diabetes

Normally this blog is focused on my academic work and scholarship by others.  A close friend and I were talking and the issue came up about my living with diabetes.  I shared the text below with him and thought maybe someone else might find it useful.  Unfortunately, diabetes is a fraternity that is gaining too many new members every day. 

Dealing with Disease by Youself
When you live alone, you do not have the luxury to just "lose it" by weeping or crying with the knowledge that the partner/spouse is there to excessively comfort, listen to the long complaints, and the rest.  I have the day job as professor at the University of Minneosta to keep me going and feel responsible to the kids in my history courses to show up prepared, grade their homework promptly, and attend meetings. 

The Defining Moment
My defining moment came when I was having my blood tested for being slightly anemic (a common diabetic fellow-traveler, not a big deal).  My general practitioner doctor sent me to the best doctor at the helath complex on the Minnesota campus for that, the hematology clinic.  I had no idea what it was.  Just another of the numerous clinics in this sprawling complex of buildings.  When I walked in I quickly realized this clinic served a large number of cancer patients.  Then I saw the child.  Probably six years old and lying on a gurney, too weak even for a wheelchair I guess.  It was impossible to guess the gender of the child.  The skin was like that of a white ceramic doll.  Except no facial or top hair.  The child's eyes were open, but lifeless.   I locked gaze with the child for a moment.  I think I tried to smile.  No reaction from the child.  At that moment, I guessed the child would never live to see Christmas.  That was the moment when all my angst over the numerous system failures of my body melted away.   

Chronic vs. Acute Disease
Diabetes is a chronic, but not an acute disease.  You die a little bit more each day and realize if you are lucky, you can finish life with most of your foot and only lose one or two decades of living.  Not all the afflictions hit you at once.  It is sort of like going to Baskin Robbins.  Trouble takes a number and waits its turn to attack.  I have a skilled family of doctors, staff, facilities, cheap prescriptions to keep going.  I try to help with going to the YMCA for exercise, watch what I eat at home, don't go out and eat steaks the size of car hubcaps, only eat out when doing so with a friend, and the rest.   

I take ownership for causing all or part of my affliction and realize that genetics also played a part.  My body humbles me and encourages me to seek support from God rather than leaning on a family.  All life is precious and should be lived to the maximum.  I know too many people who died early from diabetes, particularly those from type one diabetes.  That was pure genetics and they contributed nothing to the consequences of the disease.  I feel responsible to those who are not here anymore.   

A Slogan for Life
I now include a saying at the bottom of my email messages.  I used to detest the email postscript message from others.   They always looked so happy and sometimes appeared to be trite.  Now I include the following message:  "Every day is Christmas when we make good choices. Those choices unwrap unexpected presents of joy that await us if we do our part and trust God for the rest."  I get the chance everyday to make choices.  Maybe not as many choices are available as be fore.  A favorite line from a Huey Lewis and the News song, "The Heart of Rock and Roll" says when talking about New York City where you can " half a million things at a quarter-to-three (in the morning).  I'm in bed at 3 am.  But no complaints from me.   

The Journey
Lots of people have stuff to deal with.  Some people with disabilities talk about others who do not appear to have physical problems as "TABS".  That stands for "temporarily able-bodied (TAB)".  It is not generally said in a mean way, but a recognition that eventually everyone will be afflicted short-term or long-term before they leave this planet.  For me, I focus more on enjoying each day and happy I have choices to make.  May I make them wisely.  I am a different person today as a result of diabetes.  I would like to think I am a better person.  I would prefer to have learned my lessons and shaped my character in a different way, but if this was the path to get where I am, so be it.  May your journey in life be one that makes you a better person.

Apple's 94% Dominance in the Education Market

I was reading an online article,  "Educators Weigh iPad's Dominance of Tablet Market" in Education Week.  From the article:  "From Los Angeles to Illinois to Maine—where Apple products far outpaced Hewlett-Packard in districts’ choices through the state’s bulk-purchasing program earlier this year— iPads are hot. In fact, they command nearly 94 percent of the tablet market in K-12 schools, according to Tom Mainelli, the research director focusing on the tablet market for IDC Research, a San Mateo, Calif.-based firm that provides market analysis of technology.  By the end of this calendar year, total shipments for tablet computing devices in the U.S. education marketplace are expected to exceed 3.5 million units—a 46 percent increase over 2012, indicated Mr. Mainelli, who explained that the research is proprietary and declined to name the runners-up in the tablet race. The figure covers tablets in higher education and K-12, but colleges and universities account for a much smaller proportion because, at that level, most are personal devices."

Our College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota issues an iPad to all incoming students.  As a faculty member in the college, we have integrated use of the iPads into all our first-year courses.  I bought an iPad for personal use about a week after the first ones were available for sale.  Why do I prefer the iPad, even at its expense?  Like the old saying, I think you get what you pay for.  I wanted a slate computer that did it all and had the largest number of apps.  When I think about how much money I spend throughout the year, paying a premium for the iPad seems insignificant.  I am not a snob.  Most of the clothes I buy come from WalMart and JC Penny.  I buy my jeans at Goodwill (jeans never wear out and the price is pennies on the dollar).  I drive a 1997 Ford Explorer with some dings and dents in it.  But I want the best technology.  I am a value shopper, not a low cost shopper for technology (everything else falls into the low cost category).  Anyway, that my story why Apple products are my choice.  Plus, I think Google is evil. 

2012 David's Guide to iPad Apps

With the holiday season upon us, a frequent gift may be an iPad for Christmas. Christmas Day and the day after are the busiest days of the year for downloading apps for the new device. With more than half a million now available, how to select from them? Maybe I can help in the process a little bit.

Click on the this link to download my personal guide to iPad Apps. It ranges from personal to those I use with my position as a professor at a University. The guide alerts the reader to about 300 of my favorites. Just to be clear, I receive no compensation for any endorsements or promotions of individual apps. Just consider it as one person's opinion about some favorite apps. I remember some members of the popular media gave a hard time to Steve Jobs when during the first press conference for the iPad he called it a "magical device." Well, like so many other things, he was right! God bless Steve Jobs and the 15,000 members of the Apple family of designers and the rest. A special happy holidays to them. :-)