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.
If you didn’t know already, the state of Kansas is an unbelievably interesting place. And way more than just a flyover.
She was once called the Great American Desert, a title mistakenly given her by temporary passers-through. She’s always been home to huge herds of North American bison, vast expanses of seven foot tall Big Bluestem prairie grass, forested hills, hawks, bobcats, coyotes, the Arkansas and Big Blue rivers, Cottonwood trees, a ton of deer and antelope a-playing, and not just a few amazing people.
Indians. Cowboys. Explorers and Pony Express riders. Politicians. Artists. Aviators, scientists and writers. Reformers. Populists. Pizza makers. Farmers. Lots and lots of people who grow the food we eat every day.
Kansas turns 158 today. And it’s her people that make her who she is.
Jill Weber is a middle school teacher in Cheney, Kansas and former Gilder Lehrman Kansas History Teacher of the Year.
Today? She talks rubrics.
One thing I love about the teaching profession is that we are always constantly learning, growing, trying new things . . . all in the process of becoming better. This is true whether it’s your first year and you’re improving from the first month of school to the second. And it’s true if you’re a veteran teacher who decides to try something different to “shake things up.” There is always an opportunity to learn and improve.
One thing I am learning more and more as I keep going is how important it is to have clear expectations. Now, it’s not that I didn’t know that I needed that when I started but I keep learning that what I think is “clear” doesn’t necessarily translate that way to my 7th and 8th grade students. I find that they ALWAYS do better when I am as simplyspecific as possible with my expectations.
Don’t let that fool you. I didn’t say I lower my expectations.
I simplify my explanation of the expectations so that it is as clear as possible.
I am constantly getting better at this.
And one of my favorite examples is with my rubrics.
I am a FIRM believer in having rubrics to score students on. Nothing is more frustrating for a student to receive a score on a project or assignment and not have a clear picture as to why they were given that score. So when I’m making and using rubrics in my classroom, I’m always keeping in mind this #1 major rule . . .
If you teach in a large enough district you likely have access to professional development in the social studies. If you teach in a smaller district, you may not have many opportunities outside the state social studies conference or training presented by one of our service centers. The good news for social studies educators is that what we may not be able to access during the school year can be found during the summer and quite often for free.
I have had the honor to participate in several summer programs and find that I come home invigorated from spending time with other outstanding educators. Not only do you expand your professional network, but you will get to see the places where history happened and be able to bring that back to your students in the most impactful ways.