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5 New Year’s resolutions every social studies teacher should make

Yes. I am aware that most New Year’s resolutions are made a bit closer to New Year’s Day. But it’s still January, so I figure I’m good.

The good news is that a 2009 study found that 46% of participants who made New Year’s resolutions were likely to succeed – over ten times as much as those who decided to make similar decisions during other times of the year.

So . . . it’s not too late to make a few 2018 social studies resolutions. And I’m a big believer in constant self-evaluation. As in asking myself questions about my current practice: What’s working? What’s not? What should I change? What do my students need? What resource needs to be phased out? The middle of the school is a perfect time for those sorts of questions.

In that spirit, here are five New Year’s resolutions every social studies teacher should make:

Focus more on problems and process in addition to content

This isn’t anything that you haven’t heard before. I’ve been harping on this for years. But we all need to hear it – especially in January and February when it might seem easier to just lecture and give kids some questions to answer.

Kids need problems to solve. They need evidence to solve them. They need to work with others to create solutions. And they need the opportunity to share their solutions. Content will always be important. But we need to be intentional about finding a good balance of content and historical thinking skills.

Need some examples?

Apply for summer professional learning opportunities

We should never stop learning, never stop honing our craft. The cool thing is that there are a ton of groups out there who are dying to provide free professional learning. Some of my faves? Gilder Lehrman. Ford’s Theater. Goethe Transatlantic Outreach.

Need some more?

More intentional civic engagement

Ok. Most of us have probably dropped the ball on this one. Seriously. Twenty to twenty five percent of Americans can’t name the three branches of government. We have the lowest voter turnout of any modern democracy while at the same time voting rights are being curtailed across the country. And we seem to believe just about anything some 18 year-old Russian kid posts on our social media feed.

It’s not completely our fault. But . . . it’s a little our fault. We need to be much more intentional about finding ways to support both the content and process of Civics – whether we teach Civics or not.

Try these tools:

Use social media to grow your PLN

We can all use a hand now and again. A question answered. A resource shared. A strategy explained. And we all have a Personal Learning Network. But social media has the power to expand that network exponentially. (That’s a math term meaning “a lot” or “a bunch.”)

So explore Twitter or Pinterest or even something like GoodReads. Because the more people that we can connect with, the smarter we get.

Need a kickstart? 

Try something scary

As the K-12 education system morphs into one more focused on process, problem solving, college and career readiness, and truly preparing students for their future, we need to change as well. And that can be scary. It might mean changing lessons or adapting resources. It could mean integrating more technology into your instruction. And I guarantee that it means shifting control of learning over to your students.

This semester? Try something new. Something different. Something that you’re not quite sure how it’s going to turn out. One teacher said:

I jumped off and nailed on the way down.

Need a few ideas?

Whatever resolutions you personally decide to focus on is up to you. I get that. But it’s a brand new year so whatever you do, get out of your chair. Decide to get better. Learn something new.

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Glenn is a curriculum and tech integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Speaking and Consulting page.


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