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On Being "Less New"

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Matt Douglas is a MS/US history teacher at Waterford. We asked him to reflect on being "less new" as he approaches the end of his second year.

“The only common thread has been your disrespect
Now you call me ‘amoral,’
A ‘dangerous disgrace,’
If you’ve got something to say
Name a time and place
Face to face
I have the honor to be your obedient servant
A . Burr”

Lin-Manuel Miranda. “Your Obedient Servant.” In Hamilton: The Revolution.

As I sat and enjoyed Hamilton: The Revolution in Chicago with my new wife and her family over Spring Break, I couldn't help but imagine all the learning opportunities the play offered my students back home at Waterford. On reflecting when I felt “less new,” (I still have a lot to learn) it was when I started seeing classroom activities everywhere. I worked that very afternoon on adding the famous Burr-Hamilton duel into my senior elective. After re-working that course, I started talking with my wife on how I could include Hamilton into the day we study dueling in tenth grade. We usually don’t focus on American dueling (it is European history after all), but that lecture typically falls on Parents Visiting Day, so I imagined future students singing as they took paces against their mothers and fathers. In my first year at Waterford, I found that being new was sometimes just staying afloat. With the grading, new names, new places, and new questions, many days felt like I was just treading water in front of my students. Now, as I stare down the end of this spring, and start to brainstorm for next year, I’m glad to see how far that I’ve come, and how valuable it is to mix personal experiences with our evolving liberal arts curriculum. For me, being “less new” is seeing these potential teaching moments, and showing my students that history is alive all around them.

Matt isn't the only teacher at Waterford thinking of ways to integrate Hamilton into the curriculum. History and English teacher Jan Van Arsdell partnered with Music Director Kathy Morris during Arts Week:


Matthew Douglas is a History Teacher at Waterford. He graduated from Austin College where he earned a BA in History and Classical Civilization in 2008. He then finished his MA at the University of Texas at Arlington with a focus on eighteenth century criminal history in 2010. He is finishing his Ph.D. at Marquette University, while currently revising his dissertation on religious toleration in eighteenth century France. Before coming to Waterford, Matthew taught for three years at Marquette University in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Before pursuing his Ph.D., he taught at the University of Texas at Arlington, as well as tutored at both Irving and Irving Nimitz High Schools in Irving Texas. Matthew looks forward to teaching both the ancient and modern history courses offered at Waterford. Matthew is a published scholar, and continues to remain active in the wider historical community. He recently presented his work at conferences in Chicago and Milwaukee, and has future conferences in Nebraska, Iowa, and Toronto for the upcoming Fall and Spring. In addition to being a historian, Matthew enjoys reading historical fiction, playing pick-up games of basketball, and rooting on the Dallas Cowboys!