My writing prompt for today was as follows: “Reflect on your “renewed learning” in social studies this semester.”
I stared at this for a moment and realized that, for me, renewed learning didn’t happen. Honestly, I experienced more “reinvigorated frustration” than I did “renewed learning”…and here’s why. Not only do we marginalize social studies (and science) instruction at the elementary level, we are failing to practice what we preach in higher education. Social Studies Methods courses meet for half as many hours and are worth half as many credits as Math and Language Arts…science is in the same boat. Projects are easier, workload is less, and quite frankly, for over half of the semester, Social Studies Methods courses often simply talk about classroom management…shading it with the justification of “We’re studying how students interact; that’s “social” studies.” In an effort to not undermine my institution (which I love SO dearly) or slap administration, professors, and faculty across the face in higher ed in general, I will not say this is happening everywhere. Yet, more places than not, we are simply failing to effectively prepare future teachers to competently teach social studies and science. This translates to less confidence in the classroom, a lesser likelihood of that content being covered, and another classroom of students, in the end, which marginalizes content areas. It’s a vicious circle.
“It’s easy to sit back and make these claims, Andrew, but how do we fix it?!” …I can hear you through my keyboard… I’m not sure there is a right or wrong answer right now because we are SO deep in this cycle. Just how deep? Ask Google… just today, searching “social studies and science” turns up two suggestions below. Can you guess them?
But what I can say is, AS EDUCATORS, the best course of action is to take ownership! Don’t get me wrong, I get it…marginalization is perpetuated by the common core, it’s perpetuated by common assessment, it’s perpetuated by standards…yet, I urge you to integrate! Get creative, go cross-curricular, make the time to do your students a favor and dive in to these important content areas. Students will be excited and invigorated as they experience variety in instruction and new content. Share ideas, collaborate, team-teach, connect with other content…do whatever it takes.
Okay, off my soap-box and time to answer the question so I actually get credit for this… “What has my renewed learning been this semester?” I have been renewed in my passion and drive to ensure effective social studies instruction at all levels…this starts in the primary grades and stretches to higher education. I have been renewed in my desire to impact this field. I have been renewed in my longing for great, hands-on, immersive, and experiential social studies and science learning. Above all, though, I have been renewed in my belief that I can make a difference in a child through effective, varied, and exciting instruction…and that great educators all over can do the same.