5 Reasons why Social Studies still matters in American Education

 

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It’s 2013, and many arguments have been made pertaining to eliminating various classes as the Great Recession continues.  I have heard over and over the push to eliminate history and social studies classes.  Whether it be due to finances in a district, social studies “not being tested” in state assessments, or the extreme notion that today’s technology can  replace social studies in the classroom, social studies lessons are more important now than ever.  Listed below are five reasons that I believe make social studies one of the most important, if not the most important focus in education.

 

Current Events. I’m not talking about who is going to the Superbowl or who Taylor Swift is currently dating.  Today’s world is faster, brighter, and more informed than ever.  Technologies we don’t even know about are being produced and utilized at a rapid pace.  What does this have to do with current events? As all of you are reading this know (I hope) it’s  not just who you know, it’s all about what you know.  Being informed on everything from  new sore opening up in town to what North Korea is manufacturing plays a role in your life.   Students need to see the value in news; yes, you can just google it or look it up on our phone, but there needs to be a reason or inspiration to know – almost like building educational capital in your classroom. Teachers need to keep that educational capital present in all subjects, but it’s a no-brainer for current events.

Globalization.  I remember joining my middle school German in 8th grade, and paying $2.00 so I can get a German pen-pal. We exchanged letters every other month.  Today?  I can tweet my German pen-pal, and he’ll get it in seconds. Students need to see and understand the importance of how globalization plays a role in our world today.  From Skype to Facebook, technology has changed how globalization is perceived and how our daily lives run.  The ramifications are endless; students need to comprehend that countries may be thousands of mile away from each other, but we are now just a click away.

The Economy. I’m guessing Economics in high school and college weren’t everybody’s favorite subject, but the world still rates around an economy.  In my opinion, understanding how an economy works is just as important as eating nutritious food & exercising each day.     In some way, money still plays a role in each of our lives; having the knowledge of how it all works is paramount for students to be taking on an active role as 21st century members o

Geography. I’m still horrified by the 60 Minutes interview with David McCullough when he stated that a college student told him she had no idea the 13 colonies were on the east coast.  Despite phones, GPS, Navigation systems, and every other bell-n-whistle, students still need to read a map and know how to locate coordinates on a map. As our world gets closer, students should also have the ability to identify countries. Yes, again, it’s just a click away, but when the phone is off / internet is down / someone asks you and you don’t want to look foolish / [insert your own here]…

Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship. We all know citizenship, but go ahead and google ‘digital citizenship’ if you don’t know it.  I’m happy to see many school districts implement digital citizenship classes as early as 4th grade.  From how to research online to proper image citation, students need to understand that cutting-n-pasting is not OK; neither is doing your report based on Wikipedia articles.

If you think this is a bit biased on my behalf, it is.  I taught social studies for nine years before becoming an administrator.  Nine years of inspiring, awakening, and remind my students that in the end, history matters.

3 Illustrations to Get Your Faculty Meeting Started

If anything changes for the better in your school for 2013, it will hopefully be the Faculty Meeting. In speaking with school leaders from all over the country, many have been breaking away from the the traditional ‘sage on the stage’ format of the Principal lecturing / dictating / disseminating information to the Staff and have switched to more of a ‘conversation’ approach.  Conversations instead of meetings tend to be much more lax, and  as many studies have indicated, people (including students) who are more lax have a tendency to acquire much more information, and actually enjoy it.

For those that are transitioning, here are three illustrations I came across on Twitter recently.  Like a ‘Do-Now’ in a class, these illustrations will surely get any group of teachers conversing.

Focusing on pre/post NCLB or State testing? Surely a great pic to get things going. Shared by  @Krista_Granieri .

I cant’t think of a better snapshot of a 21st century family. A great way to get the conversation started about where we are pertaining to technology in both school and home. Shared by @iSchoolLeader. 

I like to start my Staff Conversations with things I come across.  I found this and just could’t help but to laugh.  I used it with Math teachers during a math curriculum meeting a few months back and it definitely broke the ice.

5 Books to Add to Your Collection in 2013

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Like everyone else, I always like to start fresh in a new year. Clean email box, clean desk, and clean shelves (instead of just piling scads and scads of things to read). I often ask Santa for some books, and he’s pretty consistent on getting them. Here are five books I read during the year (I tend to check out at the library before I buy) and found to be assets for my reference collection:

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Given the Newtown tragedy, I couldn’t think of a more timelier book. I know it sounds morbid, but I read it cover to cover over winter break, and must have tweeted a dozen times referencing points made in it. This is not a knee-jerk reaction book. This is a valuable tool that every leader needs in their collection.

From a book review website: At what point should violent student expressions be considered a legitimate threat? This legal handbook helps you apply caution and logic in protecting your students’ freedom of speech while also protecting the safety of everyone in the building. Gretchen Oltman, an experienced educator and licensed attorney, shows you how to react appropriately to warning signs from students. You’ll discover how to:

  • Prevent violence by creating a positive and safe school environment
  • Guide teachers in assessing written threats of violence
  • Evaluate writing outside the classroom, including texting and Facebook postings

Violence in Student Writing delves into the real-life experiences of administrators, teachers, and students, exploring current and relevant issues in student writing violence and offering solutions that every school administrator needs to know.

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This book is AWESOME. Dave Burgess is one of those teachers who you can tell hated to leave the classroom. Many of us that leave yearn for the classroom when we see lessons that are great or content that we once taught. Dave gets down to basics and give you pointers to light fires under your students; something that all teachers should be doing. I encourage every English & Reading teacher to check this out.

Book Review: Based on Dave Burgess’s popular “Outrageous Teaching” and “Teach Like a PIRATE” seminars, this book offers inspiration, practical techniques, and innovative ideas that will help you to increase student engagement, boost your creativity, and transform your life as an educator. You’ll learn how to: • Tap into and dramatically increase your passion as a teacher • Develop outrageously engaging lessons that draw students in like a magnet • Establish rapport and a sense of camaraderie in your classroom • Transform your class into a life-changing experience for your students This groundbreaking inspirational manifesto contains over 30 hooks specially designed to captivate your class and 170 brainstorming questions that will skyrocket your creativity. Once you learn the Teach Like a PIRATE system, you’ll never look at your role as an educator the same again.

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I previously posted about this book. You can find it here. The gist: this is Todd at his best, teaching us how to deal with difficult people in your school. Hopefully you’ve read Whitaker before; if you haven’t, start with this.

Book Review: Poor employees get a disproportionate amount of attention. Why? Because they complain the loudest, create the greatest disruptions, and rely on others to assume the responsibilities that they shirk. Learn how to focus on your good employees first, and help them shift these ‘monkeys’ back to the underperformers. Through a simple but brilliant metaphor, Whitaker helps you reinvigorate your staff and transform your organization.

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Salome Thomas-El is THE MAN! He can light an iceberg on fire! So passionate about being the best we can be, @PrincipalEL offers tips, tactics, and thoughts on how we can mentor and create superior learning environments for all students in today’s challenging times. I read this and thought it was tough love meets the ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ series. Sidenote – if you ever have the chance to see him in person, GO. He’s amazing.

Book Review: Influenced in no small part by the powerful mentors in his own youth, the award-winning educator and acclaimed author of I Choose to Stay offers a commonsense, inspiring road map to mentoring kids to thrive in today’s challenging world–and creating a legacy of success for generations to come. By identifying the most important areas in which mentors can affect the lives of young people, Thomas-EL shows how you can be of influence in ways you may not expect. Whether you decide to provide a professional influence by exposing youth to the dynamics of the workplace, or a healthy influence by modeling participation in sports and showing how to make healthful food choices, or an influence in good character through interactions that demonstrate respect, friendship, and discipline, you’ll find that the immortality of influence is achievable in every arena of life. Anything is possible when kids are given our time, taught to care for themselves and others, and led by our example–not only at home, but in the community at large. For any caring adult, this book is an essential guide to making a difference–not just for today, but forever.

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Not the first educational book that comes to mind, being being a history teacher of both World and American History teacher before becoming an administrator, I like to reflect on other historical leaders and their influence. Attila the Hun has a bad reputation, but if you peel the layers, you’ll see what Attila is all about: effective leadership, listening, and responding accordingly. If you choose to read it, I bet you can relate to a thing or two.

Book Review: Discover the leadership secrets of the warrior who centuries ago shaped an aimless band of mercenary tribal nomads into the undisputed rulers of the ancient world-and who today offers timeless lessons in win-directed, take-charge management. Based on historical research-and filled with illuminating maxims-this essential guide offers the wisdom of a man who unified thousands, led the charge, kept the peace, picked his enemies wisely, and negotiated brilliantly-all the vital management principles that lead to success. Listeners will learn to Never to underestimate the power of an enemy to rise against you on another day, Never to give a Hun a reward that holds no personal value to yourself, Never to arbitrate, for it allows a third party to determine your destiny, and Never to misuse power, for such action causes friction and rebellion in the tribe and nation, and much more.

These five books are all superb references. I hope they will serve you well.