I was humbled and honored when Larry Ferlazzo sent me an email a couple of months ago to answer one of the questions for the wonderful teacher advice column he does at Education Week. I’m even more humbled to be featured in a column with Bill Bigelow, curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools magazine, and co-director of the Zinn Education Project, whose work I have long admired. The question for this week is, “What’s the best advice you can give to Social Studies teachers who want to be more effective?” An excerpt from my response:
The best advice I can give Social Studies teachers who want to be more effective is to remember that we teach students, not content.
While standards may dictate that students be able to explain the Green Revolution, the human beings in our classes demand that the information we help them learn also help them develop as people. Students may enter our rooms asking, “when am I ever going to need use this information?” We need to help them leave wondering, “what lessons can I learn from the past to help myself and our society make better decisions in the future?” A study of the Green Revolution, then, becomes a lesson in how a seemingly wonderful solution to problem (hunger) can have unintended consequences that are potentially far more catastrophic (overpopulation, increased reliance on polluting fossil fuels). By focusing on transferable goals, students will not only be more engaged, but will better remember and understand the content.
The rest is here. Part two and three to come, and they’re still looking for answers, so please contribute your suggestions!