I work as a social studies specialist at ESSDACK, an educational service center in Hutchinson, Kansas. Before coming to ESSDACK, I taught middle school US History and higher ed social science classes.
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The obvious answer is no. You can never have too many maps.
So when I ran across some very cool old maps last Saturday at the Wichita Flea Market, there really wasn’t any question about whether or not I would buy them. The question was how many will I buy.
I settled on two. Which means my wife helped me decide that I should settle on two. There are quite a few maps already in my house and I was gently made aware of that fact. Which means semi-gently.
Both of the maps I walked away with are almost 100 years old. One is a 1924 map of tourist Rome published in Italian, the other a map highlighting the 1924 British Empire Exhibition with suggested mass transit options from around the London metro area. So cool.
Perfect for displaying, reading, primary source analysis, (the Empire Exhibition and its various colonial pavilions is just asking for some in-depth conversation) or just wafting in the 100 year old smell.
Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? I mean . . . engaged, civil, informed, educated, and competent. That’s a mouthful. And do we seriously need to kids who exhibit ALL of those traits? Can’t we just be happy with educated? I lecture, students take some notes, I grade a quiz. Boom, done. Everybody’s happy,
Mmm . . . yeah, not so much. I know I’m preaching to the choir here but no. Educated is not enough. A quote often attributed to Haim Ginott makes clear the importance of teaching more than the three Rs:
I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness; Gas chambers built by learned engineers, children poisoned by educated physicians, infants killed by trained nurses, women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.
So, I am suspicious of education.
My request – help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.“
I’m not equating the situations most of us find ourselves in to the world of 1930s and 1040s Nazi Germany. Clearly not the same.
But I do think we’ve failed to focus on skills that our K-12 kids need to support a vibrant, inclusive, open, accessible, and empathetic democracy. Too often we concentrate on producing great test takers but not on creating citizens that can listen to others, evaluate arguments, use evidence to make claims, and respect differing viewpoints. Citizens who can exchange honest, well-reasoned views on controversial topics. Citizens who see the value of diversity, of openness to others, of being part of something bigger than themselves.
All skills that can help transform our kids into people that other people like having around.
But finding ways to balance the 3Rs and citizenship skills can be hard. That kind of instruction requires more than lecture, notes, and a quiz on Friday.
A major first step in the process is to actually decide that teaching these skills is important. Kansas has stepped up and defined a successful high school graduate as having
the academic preparation, cognitive preparation, technical skills, employability
skills, and civic engagement to be successful in postsecondary education, in the attainment of an industry recognized certification or in the workforce, without the need for remediation.
And I know other states and school districts are creating similar mission statements. These statements are important, they set a direction. But teachers like you still have to make it happen.
Many of you are ready to jump off the end of the pier – sometime in the next few weeks, kids are heading back to your classrooms.
To help energize your first awesome week with kids, here are six great ways to kick off the school year. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t.
What not to do
But before we get too far along with what we know works, it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t. I’ve mentioned Fourteen Things You Should Never Do on the First Day of School before but it’s still a great reminder of what it looks like when we’re doing it wrong. Mark Barnes suggest that your goal should be a very simple one during the first few days of school:
You have many days to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. You have months to discuss high stakes testing and standards. You’ll spend weeks probing the textbook.
The first day of school should be dedicated to rapport-building and to joy.
Your goal should be that students go home that night and tell their parents: “I’m going to love history class because my teacher is awesome!”
So what should we be doing the first week?
Kids need to be in groups. They need to be solving problems. They need to get a taste of some social studies and play with some social studies tools. They need to know that it’s okay to fail. Find out more about them. They should practice a few critical thinking skills. Maybe a little tech here and there. Have fun.
Several weeks ago, I had the chance to work with a group of high school teachers as we brainstormed new Inquiry Design Models. Any time I get the chance to spend time with a bunch of other social studies teachers, not much can ruin the day. Seriously . . . a whole day talking, sharing, playing with, and exploring the best social studies tools, resources, and strategies?
And during our time together we messed around with a tool that I had almost forgotten about.
The Pie Chart.
The Pie Chart is a powerful graphic organizer / writing scaffold / assessment tool / Swiss army knife. It does it all and is drop dead simple. I first learned about the Pie almost a decade ago from social studies super star Nathan McAlister.
Nate was part of our Teaching American History grant as the summer seminar master teacher and used the Pie Chart as a hook activity to kick start a conversation about the causes of the Civil War.