“. . . it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
Let’s be clear.
I really have no idea what I’m talking about. As a middle aged white guy born and raised in Western Kansas, who taught 8th graders in a suburban school district and higher ed at a small liberal arts college, I’m probably the last person who might have some answers to the issues of racial injustice and systemic racism in the United States.
But I do know that I need to take responsibility for trying to figure it out. How to start? By acknowledging the privileges I enjoy because of who and what I am.
I’ve never enslaved others or transported kidnapped Africans to North America or passed Jim Crow legislation or attacked civil rights workers. But I can acknowledge that the world I live in was built by people who did, as part of a system specifically designed to benefit me and others like me. Uncomfortable as it is to admit, some of my actions in this world have directly or indirectly contributed to further divisions. And I need to continue learning how best to work alongside others to correct the flaws in that system.
As a history teacher, it’s easy for me to think of America in the abstract. But we need to recognize and admit that there has always been two Americas. The abstract one – the one we aspire to, a place of equality and freedom and idealism and democracy. You know, the America we teach our kids.
And then there’s that other America, the actual one we all live in. For many of us – especially those of us living and teaching in small, rural, mostly white communities – life can seem like the one we teach. So it’s easy to forget how big and diverse and ugly and difficult the real America is for many around the country – and if we’re honest, how difficult it is for some in the small, rural, mostly white communities as well. The disconnect between those two realities has always existed but events this spring have made that disconnect more obvious for many of us.
There is no amount of Read more
Most of you have probably settled deep into holiday break mode. Getting up a little bit later than normal. Watching football. Eating too much. Catching up on your reading. Trying to decide if The Mandalorian is worth your time. Enjoying family and friends. Not really thinking about the back to school schedule that cranks up in January.
But if you need a break from all of the free time, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-live five of the most popular History Tech posts from 2019. Enjoy the reruns!
I’ve been spending a ton of time this summer working with groups around the country, helping facilitate conversations around reading and writing in the social studies.
It’s always a good day when I get the chance to sit with social studies teachers, sharing ideas and best practice, talking about what works and what doesn’t. And the cool thing is that I always walk away smarter because teachers are super cool about sharing their favorite web site or tool or handy strategy.
This week was no different. I learned about a simple but powerful summarizing strategy called Somebody Wanted But So.
Summarizing is a skill that I think we sometimes take for granted. We ask our kids to read or watch something and expect them to just be able to remember the content and apply it later during other learning activities. We can easily get caught up in the Curse of Knowledge, assuming that because we know how to summarize and organize information, everyone does too.
But our students often need scaffolding tools to help Read more
It comes but once a year. The National Social Studies Supervisors Association and National Council for the Social Studies combined conference. For a history nerd, it’s the winter holiday break, the Final Four, and fresh out of the oven chocolate chip cookies all rolled into one event.
For three days, it’s about conversations that focus on social studies, tools, resources, evidence, and best practices. So what did I learn?
Kelsey Pacer and Laura Israelsen are my people. They may be more nuts about Googley stuff than I am and love sharing their favorite tools and ideas. I sat in on part of their My Maps session earlier in the week and this afternoon, they’re sharing some great ideas for using Google Arts and Culture.
If you never had the chance to visit Arts and Culture, you really need to set time aside to do some serious exploring. The site is dedicated to Read more
You’re right. Most New Year’s resolutions are made closer to the actual New Year. But it’s still January . . . so I’m good, right?
And it’s never too late to make a few 2019 social studies resolutions. Best place to start? Asking questions about our current practice, especially during this middle of the year period: What’s working? What’s not? What do my students need? What resource needs to be phased out? How can I get better?
The middle of the school year is a perfect time to think about these sorts of questions. In that spirit, here are five New Year’s resolutions every social studies teacher should make: Read more
Five years ago, the Kansas State Board of Education approved the adoption of a new set of state social studies standards. Next week, I get the chance to work with 30 social studies teachers as we start a process of revising them.
If you weren’t around the first time, here’s the Cliff Notes version. Previous to 2013, the standards focused almost entirely on discrete facts and the 60 question multiple choice state assessment encouraged teachers to focus on training students to memorize those facts.
Nothing wrong with memorizing facts . . . if you actually apply those facts while solving problems, becoming an engaged citizen, and working to make the world a better place. But that rarely happen in most classrooms. Schools across the state were re-arranging curriculum so that only the tested indicators were taught, often without context.
But in 2011, the winds shifted. The work of Sam Wineburg and others suggested that traditional social studies curriculum and instruction needed a do-over. So some thirty-plus educators came together and spent 18 months creating a standards document that encouraged process as well as content. Historical thinking skills along with facts. Contextual and authentic problem solving using evidence.
And now? Read more
I spent a few days in Texas last week leading some conversation around the ideas of online civic literacy, fake news, and the power of the 1st Amendment and enjoyed every minute. This week? They’re jumping into the deep end of the pool with kids. So for them, this post is a few days too late. You might be in the same pool.
But I’m hoping that for most of you, you’ve got one more weekend before your first contact day.
And to help jumpstart your first awesome week, here are six great ways to kick off the year. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t.
What not to do
But before we get too far along with what we know works, it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t. I’ve mentioned Fourteen Things You Should Never Do on the First Day of School before but it’s still a great reminder of what it looks like when we’re doing it wrong. Mark Barnes suggest that your goal should be a very simple one during the first few days of school:
You have many days to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. You have months to discuss high stakes testing and standards. You’ll spend weeks probing the textbook.
The first day of school should be dedicated to rapport-building and to joy.
Your goal should be that students go home that night and tell their parents: “I’m going to love history class because my teacher is awesome!”
So what should we be doing the first week?
Kids need to be in groups. They need to be solving problems. They need to get a taste of some social studies and play with some social studies tools. They need to know that it’s okay to fail. They should practice a few critical thinking skills. Maybe a little tech here and there. Have fun.
Need some specifics? Start with these six: Read more