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Posts from the ‘teacher’ Category

Running downhill is easy. But it’s not best for our kids

About a month ago, Kevin Honeycutt and I had the chance to spend a week together traveling around the great state of Minnesota. Kevin did presentations. I shook hands and carried Kevin’s guitar. It was a seriously great time.

It was great for a couple of reasons. First, at ESSDACK we don’t often get the chance to observe a colleague in their native environment – picking up tips, talking about best practice, stealing their good ideas. I ended the week smarter and better at what I do because of it.


Social studies nerd activities. We stopped at history markers, ate in greasy dives, and talked to lots of locals about Minnesota culture. But the best activity? Read more

Another day of teaching. “Another day wasted.”

Several years ago, I posted a quick story about Charles Francis Adams. With many of you trying to keep your heads above water, finishing state assessments, planning end of the year activities, perhaps now is a good time for a gentle reminder of sorts.


It’s a story many of you already know. I was reminded of the story while browsing through an old teaching strategy article from the Organization of American Historians.

Charles Francis Adams, grandson of John Adams and son of John Quincy Adams, served as a Massachusetts state senator, a US Congressman and ambassador to Great Britain under Abraham Lincoln. He was also very conscientious about keeping a daily journal and encouraged his own children to do the same.

Henry Brooks, fourth of seven Adams children, followed his advice and began journaling at a young age. A particular entry written when Brooks was eight has continued to catch our attention. Following a day spent with his father, he wrote

Went fishing with my father today, the most glorious day of my life.

The day was so glorious, in fact, that Brooks continued to talk and write about that particular day for the next thirty years. It was then that Brooks thought to compare journal entries with his father.

For that day’s entry, Charles had written: Read more

Cool College, Career, and Civic Life website for teachers

Last fall, the National Council for the Social Studies published the Social Studies for the Next Generation: Purposes, Practices, and Implications of the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards. It’s a mouthful.

The goal was always to create a sort of model for states as they wrote their own state standards –  a guiding document that provides a clear structure for the type of social studies instruction that we all know is good for kids.

. . . the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.

Capt Barbossa
Pirates of the Caribbean

And I’ve talked about this a ton – we were writing our state standards at about the same time that the NCSS was finishing up its work. The good news? We’re a lot alike. The focus is on the process of social studies rather than the specific content of social studies.

We want kids to be historical thinkers, solvers of problems, users of evidence  . . . people who can address an un-Googleable question and make sense of it.

I really like them.

But many social studies teachers are still not aware that they exist. And the teachers who are aware of them are quite sure what to do with them. More good news. Read more

Great teachers? How do you know?

a fellow history guy, recently asked a simple question. It’s one we’ve heard before:

What principles define great teaching?

But Dave tweaked it in a way that I like. He’s asking the question but wants to break the answers down by sorting responses by who answers it. How do students respond? What do parents say? Teachers? Administrators? And while I’m sure that data exists out there somewhere, I haven’t seen it. (But if you know where that sort of info sits, I would love for you to share in the comments.)

So. An interesting question. Especially since I don’t really fit into any of those categories. But here’s what I’m thinking right now . . . on a slow Monday afternoon without any snacks in sight. Read more

Tip of the Week: End of the Year Self-Reflection and Student Evaluations

Teacher evaluation is one of the hot topics this spring here in the Sunflower state. How do we best measure whether a teacher is good or not? What questions do we ask? What data do we look at?

Teacher quality is important. But I personally have issues with politicians and others not directly involved on the front lines claiming to know best when it comes to measuring teacher quality. Common sense and research suggests that kids are successful or not for lots of reasons.

And while the political mess of teacher evaluation by schools and districts will continue, I still believe that as professionals we have an obligation to reflect on a personal level about our own best practice. Constant improvement is a good thing. And I also believe that there is a lot of value in asking our kids, our customers, to be a part of that evaluation process.

We’re not talking here about formal teacher evaluations here – this is personal professional development. Asking questions about what we do and how it impacts our students.

I never really thought much about having my students complete evaluations during my first couple of years teaching. It was obvious, even to a rookie teacher, what needed to change, right? Plus, it just wasn’t done. I mean, who asks for the opinions of school children?

I would always try to spend time reflecting at the end of the year: Read more

So what’s my job?

An assessment researcher said once that

The role of the learner is not to passively receive information, but to actively participate in the construction of new meaning.

B. L. Shapiro, 1994

I would not disagree with that at all. In fact, much of the recent buzz in the K-12 social studies education movement has focused on the idea that kids need to be doing more and sitting less.

Thinking more. Analyzing more. Evaluating more. Creating more.

But if the role of social studies students is to actively participate in the construction of new knowledge, it sort of raises another question, doesn’t it?

What’s my job?

Complete the following sentence:

The role of the teacher is not to _________ but to __________.