A pedagogical shift towards teaching social studies in conjunction with other subjects, and not as an isolated topic, has slowly emerged on the horizon in public schools for the last five years. In some states, standardized state tests in social studies have been discontinued for students in 6th and 7th grades because they are considered non-essential. Teachers continue to ask why social studies content is being pushed aside for language arts, math, and other STEM-based curricula. Social studies, especially at the secondary level, is a disappearing and often thought of as less important curriculum, but it doesn’t have to be.
We want our classrooms to be utopian communities, ideal worlds of cooperation and happiness. Classroom-management experts describe strategies to achieve that dream, but their advice falls across a continuum with the top-down, teacher-in-charge approach at one end and the bottom-up, students-create-the-rules at the other. Which approach is best?
Adult Learning Theory understands that adults have their own, unique way of learning. In childhood and adolescence, self-concept is still developing, but for adults who learn in the workplace or at professional development seminars, they are more independent and learn best when they draw on experience. Seeing a direct connection between what they are learning and their day-to-day activities tends to help adults learn as well.
For my first permanent teaching position, I was lucky enough to fill a history position at a small K-8 school in a rural community. I say lucky for several reasons.
This past school year, I transitioned from a K–8 school to a high school. I went from teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth graders to ninth and twelfth graders. In short, it was a big jump going from a middle school setting to the high school.
As educators, we always notice gaps and different learning styles among our students, but do we ever think why? Researchers have deemed this “the achievement gap,” which refers to the difference in test scores between different groups of students.
“These kids! They never do well on my social studies tests!”
Take a moment and reflect on professional development events you have attended, and ask yourself, how many of them were “really” good, meaningful, effective, and relevant to your chosen profession? As educators, we attend several types of training, many of which are mandatory, or are recommended from our superiors. Occasionally, we get lucky and can select a specific training we deem valuable, but those may be few and far between.
Do you remember your favorite teacher?
Who could ever forget that teacher? Who could ever forget the special way that teacher inspired you and made you a better student and person at the same time?