Skip to content

It’s not just your tee shirt. It’s your favorite teaching strategy . . . uh, tee shirt.

We had a good run. Over eleven years.

And I’m trying to keep my chin up but . . . you know, it’s hard. Accepting the fact that we’ll never be together again can be rough.

You know what I’m talking about. The day you finally realize that awesome pair of jeans is just isn’t as awesome anymore. Maybe it’s that sweet hoodie you got at the merch table during a concert weekend back in college. Or maybe it’s your favorite, most comfortable tee shirt.

That’s me this morning. Back in the day, I got in the habit of grabbing a tee shirt from each of the campus visits my kids would make during their college searches. This particular shirt has been a favorite since I traveled with my first kid to Seattle 11 years ago. It fit perfectly. It was comfortable. Over the years, it slowly broke into perfection. It’s been the go-to shirt for years. But at this point, even I have to admit perhaps it’s just a little too broken in.

Eventually our favorite stuff wears out and we have to move on. It’s hard but we do it cause, well . . . cause the stuff just doesn’t work anymore.

And if you’ve gotten this for, you’ve got to be asking yourself.

Seattle Pacific tee shirt? Seriously?

Here’s the point.

It’s not just a tee shirt. It’s how we teach.

Eventually strategies and resources and materials and teaching methods wear out. And we have to move on. It’s hard but it we do it cause, well . . . cause the strategies and resources and materials and teaching methods just don’t work anymore.

We have new research. New tools. New methods. New stuff. And we can’t pretend any longer that what we’ve been using up till now isn’t just a little too broken in. But I still hear people say stuff like this:

I guess this makes some sense and I agree that training kids to think historically is a good idea. I like the strategies we talked about but I just don’t think they’d work with my kids. I’ve got my textbook and my handouts and they’re still working for me. So I’m not sure when I might use that newer stuff.

The new Kansas Classroom-Based Assessment asks teachers to train kids to ask good questions, to use historical thinking skills to address those questions, and to make claims using evidence. it’s all part of the state standards revision process that we started, hmm . . . eleven years ago.

And I’ve also heard comments that sound like this:

We will regret this. There is not a single shred of research that shows that this will work. Trust me, in five years there will be all kinds of news reports about how little our kids know about social studies. We’ve got to lecture more and make sure we cover the content.

Hey. I know. Swapping out old for new is difficult. But there is research. We’re finding out more about what works. We know the kind of world our kids are entering after high school. We know what skills, knowledge, and tools that kids need to be successful. We need to be designing and delivering instruction that focuses on developing those skills and knowledge.

And, by the way, we’ve been hearing news reports for the last 100 years about how little our students know about history and social studies. Having kids memorize facts and dates has never worked to improve test scores and assessments. It’s time to move on.

But I get it.

It’s been a rough couple of years. Change is always hard. Learning to teach using different tools is hard. Learning to let kids struggle to find answers rather than stepping in and giving them the answers isn’t easy. Giving up some of your favorite units to make room for more thinking, arguing, exploring, researching, reading, writing, and high levels of critical thinking makes us uncomfortable. Keeping that old tee shirt is just . . . easier.

So . . . need a few ideas that can help you change your shirt?

I created a quick Google Doc that lists a ton of lessons, activities, videos, and podcasts that align with the idea of training kids to be great historical thinkers. Head over there, explore a bit, and pick just one thing to try. Then a week or two from now, pick another thing. Then later in the semester? Pick another thing. Then . . . you get the idea. Changing your shirt is a process.

Throwing away your favorite tee shirt is tough. But there are days when you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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 Work with Me page.

He offers a variety of F2F and remote learning opportunities at Social Studies@ESSDACK designed just for you.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Joseph Webb #

    Thank you for the mother load of strategies. I can’t wait to share them with colleagues and student teaching interns.

    A little bummed out by my UNC at Tarheel T-shirt that no longer fits my girth! Keep the good ideas coming.

    August 22, 2022
    • glennw #

      You’re welcome! Hopefully you’ll find some useful stuff.


      (And we all have a few shirts like that! Of course, I still can’t rid of them.)

      August 22, 2022
  2. Sarver #

    I love the analogy and the idea that we need to change our shirts! As the education world has transitioned to digital learning, it has been hard for some teachers to refresh some of the strategies used and to add more technology. I think you nailed it when saying giving up our favorite units or strategies is hard. In some ways it feels as if we are pioneering or paving the way to a new digital learning environment, enhanced with technology and broader thinking. Thanks for sharing some new thoughts not only in this article but others as well.

    October 12, 2022
    • glennw #

      Thanks for the comment! Appreciate you stopping by. And I like your idea of paving the way to a different kind of environment! Changing is hard but if we know that we’re moving to a better place for kids, that’s always a good thing.


      October 12, 2022

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Sharing Diigo Links and Resources (weekly) | Another EducatorAl Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: