I fessed up to the class today that I had been blogging about our discussions all semester. I had been a little concerned that they might hold back on their contributions if they knew I had been sharing outside of class, but as usual, they proved the opposite. The cell phones came out, and the students immediately dove into scanning the posts to see if their contributions had been mentioned. (As a side note, that may not have been the official end of class time, but I was well aware that I was done with holding their attention for the day. Sometimes it’s best to give in to the inevitable.)
One student commented to me, “You are being Eliza.” I hadn’t thought about it that way, but indeed, I have been telling their stories all semester. This blog was originally in response to a number of friends who declared, “I would love to take your class,” and I wanted to share the historical and lyrical stories and gems of information that I have discovered as part of my research. As the class gelled as a unit, I also began to share details of our discussions because I was fascinated by the links that they made between their lives and the historical characters. I also enjoyed laughing at myself when I would begin a class with a script all mapped out about how the discussion would go and we would end up in an entirely different place. (It’s difficult to debate the merits of Thomas Jefferson when the whole class was in agreement about his faults.)
It has indeed been my privilege to tell the stories that were shared in class, whether they were shared off-handedly or in a whisper, with bravado or with bravery. I had focused on myself and on the gifts that had been given to me in those stories, but today my students educated me yet again and showed me the power of having your story told. I have been aware from the beginning of how much they all admired Angelica, but for the first time, we all seem to understand the power of Eliza. It was Eliza who told Hamilton’s story and made sure that when historians such as Ron Chernow went to research him, there was a story to be told in the future. I, too, have admired Angelica’s intellect and quick wit, but today, I am proud to be Eliza.