Social Studies isn’t English Language Arts’ Annoying Relative.

Image

More and more, it seems that educational resources support two core courses: English Language Arts and Mathematics. In my opinion, this is a dangerous trend in education, today. At a time when students must prepare to live within a global society, education curriculum and instructional resources are ignoring other critical subjects. As a result, the education industry’s emphasis on chasing vanity metrics tends to narrow curriculum design and implementation.

Investing primarily in “tested” courses, i.e. English Language Arts and Mathematics, because they’re predominantly represented in standardized exams, is a tragic educational blunder. Yes, reading comprehension and computation skills are vital, but they’re not the “be-all and end-all.” If we rely solely on English Language Arts or Math teachers to do the “heavy lifting,” then we’re creating a skewed division of labor. Such an inequitable division creates wedges within a school building at the expense of meaningful interdisciplinary collaboration. Although standardized tests have their place, they should never exclusively define a school district’s curriculum design.

Every student needs exposure to the sciences and the arts. Simply put, not every student is a future author or engineer. Some will grow to become musicians, artists, scientists, social scientists, computer programmers, etc. Therefore, we must guard against restricting their access to various disciplines. It’s important for us to acknowledge that each course provides its unique curriculum and opportunity to expand a student’s worldview.

So, what subject gets the biggest “bang for its buck?”

Social Studies!

Social Studies courses provide students with an opportunity to learn about various cultures. A well-rounded curriculum yields a well-rounded student. Since the world, on various levels, is flat, we simply cannot afford to remain American-centric in our educational approaches. Therefore, we ought to prepare students for the future global society, and not the past. In my opinion, students can benefit greatly from exposure to different cultures, such as the Chinese, Indian, African, etc. Learning about the history of civilization is critical to producing a well-rounded, 21st century global citizen.

Now, what better course offers such an opportunity?

You guessed it.

Social Studies!

Reading comprehension skills don’t apply to English Language Arts’ classes, alone. They’re applicable to Social Studies classes, too. Since every discipline involves reading, teaching comprehension skills transcends a traditional English Language Arts’ classroom. For example, I require my students to read an excerpt from Jared Diamond’s, “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race,” as a project-based unit. Assignments, such as this one, help to illustrate how Social Studies and English Language Arts’ skills overlap. In other words, Social Studies courses incorporate reading comprehension skills, as well.

At some point, every course requires students to practice their writing skills. Whether it’s creating an essay, speech, or another product, students engage in writing beyond English Language Arts’ classes. Although learning how to write well is a critical skill to master, it’s not exclusive to teaching students how to answer brief constructed responses. Social Studies classes provide the opportunity to connect both, writing skills and historical knowledge.

Narrowing the curriculum, as a result of chasing vanity metrics, undermines teaching and learning. Instead of adequately investing in all subjects, education experts are relying too heavily on “tested” subjects. As a result, students are missing out on quality, well round curricula. Even though I appreciate the need to strengthen English Language Arts’ courses, Social Studies is more than its “annoying relative.”

Advertisements

Should a parent go to jail for This?

Today, I learned about two “education theft” cases where a parent, Kelley Williams Bollar, served nine days in jail, and a set of parents, Hamlet and Olesia Garcia are facing up to seven years in prison. I’m ashamed I wasn’t aware of this problem before today – January 25th. However, now that I’m aware this practice exists, I’m utterly appalled. For the life of me, I cannot contemplate any justifiable reason a municipality would seek to send parents to jail/prison for the so-called education theft offense. Is this how an advanced civilization conducts itself?

Garcias

Hamlet and Olesia Garcia

I want you to read about these parents’ current ordeal, and I challenge you to walk away without feeling a sense of frustration and bewilderment. This seems like it can happen in any town, USA. In fact, it could even happen to you. You can find their story here.

Now, I want you to imagine that you’re the Garcias?

What if you separate from your partner, and as a result, you move back to your parents’ house. As part of this move, you must enroll your child, who is starting school for the first time, in the neighborhood school. Seems more than plausible, right?

Now, as time passes, you and your partner reconcile differences, and you decide to move back into your home. But, by this time, the school year is coming to a close, and you really don’t want to disrupt your child’s first year of school. So, you decide to let him or her finish the remaining quarter of the school year. No problem, right?

Believe or not, it is!

Not only is it a problem, but now you’re facing third degree felony charges for committing “education theft.”

Yes, education theft! Can you believe it?

Well, it’s true. It was true for Kelley Williams Bollar, and it’s true for Hamlet and Olesia Garcia. Ladies and gentlemen, what’s the purpose of jailing a parent or parents for this so-called crime? What’s the purpose of ripping a family apart to “prove a point?” How have we become so heartless? Is this American justice at its finest?

I truly hope it’s not.

Sign the Petition to “Drop Criminal Charges Against Garcia’s for Kindergarten “Education Theft?”

A Teacher’s Many Hats

Image

It’s often said, teachers wear many hats throughout the school day. As a teacher, I can certainly attest to this statement. In fact, I believe a teacher wears more hats than any other professional. To prove my point, I’ve decided to compile a list of frequently used “teacher hats” to help support my claim.

The Instructor’s Hat

By and large, the “instructor’s hat” is the most recognized and utilized. During the school day, this hat is certainly worn the most. For example, teachers wear this hat when they deliver lessons, facilitate discussions, address student misconceptions, etc. As a result, teachers definitely get a lot of mileage out of this particular hat, alone.

The Counselor’s Hat

By far, the “counselor’s hat” is the most emotionally draining hat to wear. Unlike other teacher hats, this one appears at any given moment. For example, it’s not uncommon for teachers to wear this hat when a student needs to “talk.” These moments can occur before, during, or after school. Luckily, this hat doesn’t discriminate against any day of the week, either.

The Secretarial Hat

In my opinion, this is the dullest hat in a teacher’s closet. However, it’s probably the most important one. Since a typical there are several meetings to attend during a typical school week, this hat helps teachers organize their time wisely. Remember: A disorganized teacher loses everything; an organized teacher just loses his or her mind.

The Nurse’s Hat

Although it may sound odd, a teacher, at any given moment, is a classroom nurse. Somewhere in his or her classroom, every teacher keeps a first-rate, first aid kit. A teacher deals with bumps, bruises, colds, coughs, runny noses, etc. Trust me, teachers can handle any sickness short of the bubonic plague.

The Champion’s Hat

Without a doubt, this is the most important hat to wear. I can’t honestly think of any one who can better explain “why” than the late Rita Pierson. So, I’ll let her explain it to you, as she rests in peace.

 

The Guardian’s Hat

This is probably the most underrated hat in a teacher’s closet. Many times, a teacher has to act as a surrogate parent/guardian for his or her students. A teacher wears this hat for a variety of reasons, such as quietly telling a student to “sit up” or reminding a student to tie his or her shoe. Although this hat appears at any given time, it frequently appears during hallway duty. A teacher often wears this hat when instructing students to “walk and not run,” which students regularly interpret to mean, “run faster!”

The Student’s Hat

Without question, this is the most ignored hat. It’s not ignored by teachers, but by non-educators. Most non-educators forget that teachers are students too. Teachers constantly seek to learn new ways to improve their craft. Although a teacher wears this hat during the week, it is often worn on the weekends. Contrary to popular belief, this hat works throughout the winter and summer “breaks,” too.

The Firefighter’s Hat

Although this hat is not as popular as the rest, it’s a necessary one. Anytime students are arguing or fighting, a teacher wears this hat to “put out the fire.” In an ideal world, this hat never sees the light of day. However, in reality, it’s necessary to wear this hat, from time-to-time. Hopefully, it never involves using a one hundred-foot ladder.

The Cop’s Hat

Like the “firefighter’s hat,” this hat is extremely important. However, unlike the “firefighter’s hat,” this one’s designed for daily use. A teacher wears this hat to protect the classroom environment, and to serve each, and every, student. Whenever a teacher spots a conduct violation in progress, he or she quickly reaches for this hat. Interestingly enough, this hat can appear in random locations, such as the grocery store or while riding on the metro train. A teacher is always on the prowl for conduct violations!

The Duh-Vinci Hat

The “Duh-Vinci hat” is used when teachers attempt to create classroom projects, decorations, gadgets, gizmos, etc. Although this hat starts off looking great, it often ends up on the floor soaked in glue, paint or non-washable markers.

The iHat

Given the tech-laden, twenty-first century world, this hat is relatively new to the teaching profession. In my opinion, a teacher can’t afford to ignore this hat. Yes, this hat comes with a lot of manuals. And, yes, it’s time-consuming to read them all. Trust me, I get it. This hat is intimidating to wear. Nonetheless, it’s a prerequisite for becoming a great twenty-first century teacher.  Plus, I hear it even has its own app!

The @Hat

Believe it or not, although this hat is easily accessible, it’s seldom worn. Most likely, this hat is often neglected because it comes with tons of accessories: Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, WordPress, StumbleUpon, etc. Although the list is daunting, once a teacher masters this hat, his or her classroom walls come crumbling down!

The Teflon Hat

Hands down, this is the most difficult hat to wear, day-in and day-out. Nevertheless, it’s critical for classroom management success. The “Teflon” hat comes out when a student, parent, or worse, a colleague is insulting a teacher. It helps guard against ignorance, and it’s designed to let insults bounce right off. It has only one design flaw: The hat is mood sensitive. If it senses frustration or anger, then it dissolves rather rapidly.

The Night Cap

By far, this is the most tempting, yet damaging hat of them all. Many a teacher has fallen victim to this seductive hat. Sure, it looks appealing. But, be ever so careful. If you have too many nightcaps, then you’ll be sporting a painfully ugly hat the next day: The Hangover Hat.

Does Freedom of Speech end at the Principal’s Office?

I’ve watched this video a few times, trying desperately to find any justifiable reason Newark officials suspended these school leaders. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see anything that would call for such a serious disciplinary action. In fact, it’s quite scary to think that Newark officials suspended these dedicated school leaders for speaking out and defending their schools, staff, and students.

What’s going on in Newark? This strikes me as highly un-American. So much for freedom of speech!