An Active Learner
Senior Charlie Harcourt likes digging deep into things. As he puts it: “I love to examine the various causal factors that affect one thing.” When he was looking for colleges, Charlie wanted a place where he could truly and meaningfully immerse himself within the histories he had been reading about for years.
“I had spoken with friends who studied history at bigger schools and they seemed to feel disconnected,” says Charlie. “With history, it can be difficult to feel involved in the classroom since there’s usually a lot of lecture. When I came to GMC, I found that wasn’t the case.”
The Nottingham, N.H. native was pleased to find what he was looking for, not so far from home. Some of the trademarks of GMC, like close relationships between students and professors, were the first things he noticed.
He noticed that professors within his department were taking the time to establish a community among their students. “We’re all involved with these historical discoveries together, and there’s a lot of discussion in class. We all do the reading together and contribute. With the small class sizes, we can afford ourselves the opportunity to do that. It’s definitely engaged me more in the classroom—to be able to learn history through a collective process, rather than a top-down process where the professor just relays information,” he says.
Charlie also noted that the GMC faculty members were willing to make an extra effort to explore whatever topics in history interested him specifically through the various independent studies and seminars.
“I became interested in sort of ‘alternative’ history,” Charlie says. “I liked studying modern revolutionary history. And I enjoyed Matt (Osborn’s) study in popular riots and protests. You start to realize that there’s a hierarchy of authority that writes the history books and that some important things can get buried for political purposes,” he says. “For that reason, you have to be open to reading accounts from other perspectives.”
The strong sense of community went beyond the classroom. Charlie got involved with some of projects and events in Poultney in an effort to the further bridge the town-gown gap. During his sophomore year he offered to construct an interactive display at the Earth Fair for the Poultney Historical Society. The display gave an overview of the history of dairy farming. It went over so well, he made another display the following year on the theme of local agriculture. For this year’s Earth Fair, Charlie was part of the planning committee that helped come up with the theme “Faces of Community.”
“It’s been a great process to be a part of and it really helped me feel more a part of the community,” says Harcourt. “They highlighted people that aren’t necessarily appreciated as much as they should, so it was great to see that.”
Charlie also had a chance to work with the Historical Society on a Delicate Balance project in which he made a visual archive of various local graveyards.
His connection to Poultney was further strengthened when he began student teaching as part of his secondary education certification for his senior year.
“I love giving students more of a global perspective and to enable them to make connections between themselves and other communities around the world,” he notes. As much as the experience has been a useful introduction into teaching, Charlie says he learned a lot too.
“The move from student to teacher was interesting,” Charlie laughs. “I realized that teaching involved a lot more than writing good lesson plans. You’ve really got to adapt and try to engage the kids. It’s made me realize that student teaching is an important thing. You can be really critical of what you’re doing and try new things. Every day, you learn what works and what doesn’t.”
Charlie looks forwarded to putting those lessons, both in history and in the teaching of it, to good use. He was recently accepted to the Teach for America program, which recruits quality teachers to work in underprivileged areas. He knows he’ll be in the Mississippi Delta region for the next school year. Looking ahead, Charlie hopes to spend the next summer working in a program with Phillips Exeter Academy, considered one of the finest private high-schools in the nation.
“I’m excited for a big change,” says Charlie. Wherever he goes, Charlie hopes to carry with him the sense of community, active learning, and commitment to unraveling the histories of our increasingly globalized world.
-Chad Skiles ‘12