As I’ve said before, the last couple of weeks of my life have been completely devoted to preparing an e-portfolio based on my student teaching experience. The cornerstone of this e-portfolio was our teaching rationale, which outlined our reasons for teaching and our goals for teaching social studies. Below, you will find my teaching rationale. It’s not anything final, and will probably change frequently as I go through my teaching career. Anyhow, this is why I want to teach and what I hope to accomplish…
The teachers that I have had over the course of my educational career have changed my life. They have made a difference. They have encouraged me and nourished my love for learning. I have been blessed to have many teachers who have cared enough about me and the profession that they have to go the extra mile, to do the extraordinary when times merited just the ordinary; and that has made a difference. It is for that reason that I wish to be a teacher—and that’s what I’m teaching for. To make a difference in the life of a student, to be the encourager, the one who nourishes, and gives shape to their desire for learning. Ultimately, to have a student leave my classroom and feel that anything in the world is just inside the realm of possibility for them is what I desire. I understand that this might be perceived as radical, unrealistic, or impossible. But I also believe that I shall not be limited to those perceptions—and herein lays my reason for teaching.
The academic discipline of social studies has the privilege of being able to link itself to the world and I feel that is what it should accomplish. Students should feel that social studies isn’t just the study of dead people, dates, and names, but that it is relevant and that it exists around them every day. While there are several goals that I would hope for my students to achieve as a result of studying history and social science with me the overarching goals are the following: the importance of civic involvement/activism, an understanding of governmental and societal foundations, an understanding of the impact of governmental decisions, a strong value for education, and a keen sense of compassion.
The importance of civic involvement/activism:
Many of the luxuries, rights, and privileges that we enjoy in today’s society are a result of the civic involvement and/or activism of those who came before us. My students will understand the importance of making sure that their voice is heard, by having examined several examples of how change can come as a result of civic involvement and/or activism. Along with this, they will be able to demonstrate their knowledge of this goal by their own civic involvement/activism, as well as their ability and desire to encourage others to become activists or be involved in civic matters.
An understanding of governmental and societal foundations:
Frederick Douglass once stated, “Without struggle, there can be no progress.” It is with that thought that one can begin to think of the foundations of American government and of today’s society; and it is also with that thought that one can continue to imagine the changes to come for the future. The students that I teach will have a sharp understanding of the foundations of government and our society because having this knowledge will allow them to understand the principles upon which our government and our society is based. This knowledge will be demonstrated by their ability to raise questions about governmental actions and other things that take place in society based on the foundations. For example, if there is a situation where they feel that people may be being denied their rights based freedom of speech, my students will be able to question this situation based on what they know of governmental and societal foundations and how that is relevant and fits into today’s society.
An understanding of the impact of governmental decisions:
Every decision that is made by the government will have some impact on the society—perhaps long-term or short-term. I feel that it is important for my students to be able to understand the impacts of governmental decisions or at least be able to sufficiently hypothesize the impacts of governmental decisions on the future. By having this understanding, coupled with the understanding of governmental and societal foundations, I feel that they will have two of the most important tools necessary to be functional civic citizens. My students will be able to display this knowledge by their ability to successfully discuss and present these issues to others and with others.
A strong value for education:
Education is a very important tool, generally equated with success in society. With this in mind, my students will value education, not only as the knowledge of facts but with an understanding of the importance of educating others. In conjunction with this, my students will understand that having an education and/or being an educated citizen cannot/does not have to only be obtained by attending school and getting certain degrees. While having these things (a degree) may say that you’ve completed a certain number of course requirements, (and thus, know a certain amount of things on a specific subject) there are certain things that you only learn by being a keen student of life. Those that I teach will appreciate education, and they will express their appreciation of this value by helping to educate others, not just on academic subject matter but on life subject matter as well, sharing their skills and their knowledge with others.
A keen sense of compassion:
Life deals people different things. Some people have to overcome different situations in their life that may make them act a certain way that isn’t necessarily pleasant, or may change their outlook on society and what it has to offer. On the contrary, some people may have had a life that models something out of a storybook. In either scenario, it is important that all people are treated with compassion because you never know what they have encountered that day/week/month/year/life, etc and how that has affected them. The students that I teach will understand and maintain a sense of compassion that will be reflected in their actions by always trying to understand the situation that others have been placed in and how that might make them feel if the same thing had happened to them. My students will always try to examine a situation without being judgmental and will try to honestly let that compassion guide them in their decisions in regards to others and with regards to themselves.
At the core of all this; when everything is said and done, I would like for my students to be able to ask the important questions. Looking beyond the date of an event, or the day that somebody died; I want them to ask the bigger questions. What is the significance of this event/person on society? What lessons can I learn from the life that they led? What do I have in common with this person? How is this event similar to something that has happened in recent history? How can I use this event as a stepping stone for future activity in my community? Questions such as these are what I want them to ask. I want them to be able to ask the questions necessary so that they can make the connections and come to their own conclusions about an event. As educators, we spend too much time being decisive on history. Let’s give our students the tools needed to make their own decisions on if something is right or wrong, fair or unfair, moral or immoral. I feel that one of the best ways to do that is to get them to askquestions.
In examining social studies, one will eventually be forced to deal with issues of cultural diversity, power, privilege, and multiculturalism—or it seems to me that they should be forced to deal with these issues. For too long, social studies has been presented in a whitewashed format; exploring the notable achievements and accomplishments of white men, and a select few white women—but excluding most women and people of color. To be comprehensive students of social studies, we have to expand our horizons and be willing to examine all of the different perspectives that exist. As a social studies teacher, I fully intend to not only provide the perspective of the well known from our history, but to also promote the voices of those who have long been forgotten and ignored.
Social studies is my passion. Of all the academic disciplines that there are to explore, social studies is what makes me come alive. I want to give that same passion to my students. I want to engage them in such a way that social studies becomes second nature to them, in a way such that they can see how social studies lives all around them. Yes, I am teaching for them to be able to be productive citizens of society; those who can ask the important questions and make the decisions when the times warrant it. But I also want them to understand the value that lies in social studies. I believe that social studies, as a general course of study, is seen by some to be less rigorous and less important when compared to other subjects. I want to teach in such a way that it won’t just be educators fighting for social studies as an important discipline, but that my students are fighting for it also, because I have showed them the value and the relevance of it to them. This is how I want to teach.