This week’s post comes from Thomas Fulbright, current KCSS president and history teacher at Hope Street Academy, a public charter school in Topeka since 2008. Thomas intends “to spend my entire life convincing them how exciting and important history is.” His bio picture is daughter Claire and Thomas meeting President Lincoln.
This past July, I attended a Library of Congress Primary Source Summit hosted by the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies. We covered a number of topics beyond just social studies pedagogy with a focus on the use of primary sources. By the end of the summit I was feeling good about the State of the Social Studies in Kansas, and in addition, reinvigorated in my personal purpose for teaching social studies. Let me tell you why & hopefully you will feel the same way (sorry you couldn’t come with me to Minnesota).
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.
Lori Rice teaches fourth grade at West Elementary in Wamego and is the current Kansas Council for the Social Studies elementary teacher of the year. You can find Lori on Twitter at @MsLRice. She also blogs on all things teaching (not just social studies) at The Educator’s Room.
The beginning of the school year brings excitement and anxiety for teachers and students alike. It is a year of new possibility, new classmates and new opportunities.
Every school year I start with lists. I have a list of school supplies I need to buy and hunt down at sales. I have a list of things to do to prepare and organize my classroom for a new set of students and families. Then there is the coveted class list. We get our elementary list in August.
When I receive my class list every year, I look at it with curiosity and a little worry. Who are these children coming into my room? What experiences do they bring to our room? What experiences are they lacking? How have they been taught in previous years? Where do they go home each night? Will I be able to provide all they need?
Building a classroom community is the most important part of the first weeks of school.
It takes time for students to build relationships and trust within the classroom walls we will spend our next nine months. Being a social studies teacher, it is so simple to intertwine my curriculum from the first day into the discussions, activities, and lessons we do from the start. The HGSS standards and social/emotional skills can be taught at every grade level and woven into literature, art, music, and especially classroom management.
There are many great picture books and chapter books to start the year with. I use Absolutely Almost or Wonder as a great read aloud to start discussions about differences and strengths. I have been teaching fourth grade for twelve years and this is my twenty-fourth year in education. We all have our favorite lessons. These are two that I love starting the year with: Continue reading Starting Social Studies→
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.
Planning is underway for the 2019 Kansas Social Studies Conference!
We hope that social studies teachers currently part of the profession, pre-service teachers planning to enter the profession, and vendors passionate about supporting the profession will all join us at Newman University October 20-21 for two exciting days of networking, collaborating, and learning from one another.
This year we will be joined by keynote speaker Dr. John Fea, Professor of American History at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Fea will be speaking about his 2013 book Why Study History? and sharing how reflecting on contemporary life from a historical perspective helps us better understand ourselves and the world around us.
Have something that would be great to share with other educators? Please submit a proposal for a breakout session! The deadline has been extended to make sure we don’t miss any great opportunities to see what you’re doing in the classroom.
Find out more and register for the conference here.