C's bookshelf: read

The Peculiar
Maggot Moon
The City and the City
The Road
A Certain Slant of Light
The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer's Craft
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Brown Girl in the Ring
Well Wished
The Innkeeper's Song
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
American Indian Myths and Legends
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Return of the King
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers

C S Peterson's favorite books »

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Who am I, how did I get here and what do I do?

I am a teacher at an independent school where the students pick a topic they are passionate about to study in depth.  I teach math and Latin but mostly I take students on field trips related to the topics they choose to study.
One of the most exciting times of the year is when we field trip teachers get the lists of the topics the students have chosen. It’s like Christmas! The lists have been coming in during the last few days. I’m working on many of the topics that relate to anthropology and one of the students I get to work with wants to know how we got here. He’s not asking about the origin of humans, but once there were humans how did they spread out over the planet.
I started my search for the perfect person to help him with his questions.  I started reading about anthropologists who use genetic markers - small mutations that occurred at various points in human history and were then passed on - to build up a map of early human migration.  

The weight of human history haunted the rest of my day - as I listened to news from Syria, as my husband told a family story at the dinner table, as I glanced at family photos from 1900 on the wall going up the stairs, as I read my children a bedtime story about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. And I thought - when my ancestors were on the verge of extinction and each day was an infinitesimally epic quest to survive, all I do and know was far and away, in a future where each minute is filled with unimaginable, unbelievable wonders. 


  1. Well, you know that I like it, Katie. And I love all the connections you have made here, from far in the past to us today. (I might have a video for you that I've used about this). See you soon!

  2. Your title is such a huge question for anyone to think about. I loved your use of the word "haunted" and how it filled your thoughts the rest of the day.

  3. Fascinating. Big, big question. I love when the students' questions lead our own learning and wondering too.

  4. I watched the Arab Spring unfold last year with my baby in my arms. I cried and cried as the images flashed across the street. Part hormonal response and part human response. The things happening in Syria are unspeakable. The world needs to step in before it gets worse.

  5. I did the same thing when my first child was born. I would hold her and weep as I listened to reports on the radio about the Bosnian war. I just hit me in a new way - every one who dies is someone's baby.

  6. What a mind-boggling topic! It could relate to philosophy as well as anthropology. Where will you end up going on a field trip for that?

    1. We ended up going to interview a genetic anthropologist at University of Colorado. She studies genetics and disease of the ancient Inca and talked with us about human haplogroups and migration. Really interesting!