Adam Topliff teaches 8th Grade social studies & civics at Wamego Middle School in Wamego, KS. And loves all things Hamilton!
Let’s take a field trip. I want you to travel back to your college days.
OK . . . before we go any further, this is not traveling back to all the parts of college. There may be a few details that you would like to forget or some events that you can’t quite remember as clearly as you might hope.
But I do want you to take a quick memory ride back to your education classes, specifically your methods of instruction class.
What do you remember from the class? What were you able to take from that class that was designed to help you prepare to go into the classroom and be the teacher you aspired to become? I can’t speak for all the colleges but I can say I took mountain of information from my methods class at Emporia State. (Thanks Dr. Mallein!)
The thing I liked the most is that the class was truly an active lab of learning how to teach beyond just the Social Studies. This was about teaching kids. Everything from lesson plan design, to effectively implementing small groups, was geared to see the importance of the student first, not the content. Those lessons have greatly influenced my own thinking and methods as a middle school teacher.
You may not have had a similar experience. If you didn’t, I hope you were able to connect later with others in the profession who helped you grow. And I hope that you’re now motivated to help build the profession by finding ways to support and encourage others in becoming quality social studies educators.
How can we continue to build awesome social studies teachers?
- Let YOUR classroom be that learning lab for future educators
The easiest and most powerful method is to open your room up to pre-service block students to who are just getting their feet wet. Too many times, our pre-service students come in and really only just observe. We should change that approach.
This should be a much more meaningful experience and something that can have impact beyond the field experience class. To enhance this opportunity, provide time to sit down and dialogue about what they are seeing as you instruct. Walk them through the thought process of your instructional choices and how you engage with students. Make these sessions true professional development. Additionally, give these block students the chance to do more than just the required mini-lessons. Let them co-plan and teach a lesson alongside you so they get a real experience of the process of planning. Model the assessment of learning and how this guides the next step. This helps make the process more about students and less about social studies.Finally, provide them with as many resources that you can share. Help them build a professional library. In making your classroom a learning lab, you are helping guide them in a pathway to success.
- Work WITH the College of Education when the opportunities are presented and become a teacher in these teaching classrooms
In the past several years, I had the chance to be a guest teacher in the Kansas State University Social Studies Colloquium class. My area of focus has been teaching in the middle school level and how that looks in my classroom. During this time, I work with future educators on a more in-depth level, looking at how teaching middle school is different and how those differences play an important role in instructional choices.
We spend time looking at the importance of effective classroom management and student engagement. This brief time provides me the chance to give a real world viewpoint and strategies for these soon-to-be teachers. I appreciate the opportunities that Dr. Brad Burenheide and Kansas State have given to educators throughout the region to come in and share their expertise. So consider reaching out to a local university and seeing how you can help in these methods class. I imagine most universities would not turn down the chance to have real-world experiences as part of the curriculum in their methods classes.
- Be an active cooperating teacher that truly mentors a student-teacher in your classroom. One of the most frustrating things that a student-teacher can experience is not getting feedback or feeling unsure during their student-teaching experience. They are coming into your classroom as a guest, already anxious about what to expect and now we just throw them into the deep end and tell them to figure it out? Is this helping build the profession?
Having a student-teacher is not a free semester for the regular classroom teacher. It is about modeling an effective classroom, providing guidance in instructional choices, and giving the student-teacher the freedom of trial and error in your classroom. You have the important role of knowing when assistance is needed and when to step back and let things play out . . . sounds a little like your classroom relationship with your kids, right?
The expertise you can provide is about giving that student-teacher feedback that will help them grow as lesson planner, facilitator and relationship builder. So please don’t check out when you are given the chance to have a student-teacher. Use this time to sharpen your teaching skills while also being a mentor for a future teacher. The profession will thank you for it!
Social Studies teachers continue to be pushed to design their classrooms to inspire deeper thinking, develop more problem solving, and nurture engaged citizens. This challenge seems almost overwhelming but also exciting. To make these ambitious goals a reality, we need young, energetic teachers who are prepared to join this endeavor. As classroom professionals, it is our responsibility to engage with colleges and universities as they train our future colleagues. Let’s help build the profession from the foundation to the roof.