Tip of the Week: Forget the Gym. These 5 New Year’s Resolutions Are What You Really Need

Three men and two women hold sparklers while laughing at a party

You’re right. Most New Year’s resolutions are made closer to the actual New Year. But it’s [almost] 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:

1. Focus more on problems and process

I talked about this just a few days ago and I’ve been harping on this for years. But we all need to hear it – especially in January and February when it might seem easier to just lecture and give kids some questions to answer.

Kids need problems to solve. They need evidence to solve them. They need to develop the skills needed to mess with that evidence. They need to work with others to create solutions. And they need the opportunity to share their solutions. Content will always be important. But we need to be intentional about finding a good balance of content and historical thinking skills.

And after a lengthy conversation this morning with Steve Wyckoff around the idea of using badges as a way to focus on social studies competencies, I’m reminded again of the importance of teaching process skills.

Need some examples? 

2. Apply for summer professional learning opportunities

We should never stop learning, never stop honing our craft. The cool thing is that there are a ton of groups out there who are dying to provide free professional learning. Some of my faves? Gilder Lehrman. Ford’s Theater. Goethe Transatlantic Outreach.

Need some more?

3. More intentional civic engagement

Ok. Most of us have probably dropped the ball on this one. Seriously. Twenty to twenty five percent of Americans can’t name the three branches of government. We have the lowest voter turnout of any modern democracy while at the same time voting rights are being curtailed across the country. And we seem to believe just about anything some 18 year-old Russian kid posts on our social media feed.

It’s not completely our fault. But . . . it’s a little our fault. We need to be much more intentional about finding ways to support both the content and process of Civics – whether we teach Civics or not.

Try these tools:

4. Use social media to grow your PLN

We can all use a hand now and again. A question answered. A resource shared. A strategy explained. And we all have a Personal Learning Network. But social media has the power to expand that network exponentially. (That’s a math term meaning “a lot” or “a bunch.”)

So explore Twitter or Pinterest or even something like GoodReads. Because the more people that we can connect with, the smarter we get.

Need a kickstart? 

5. Try something scary

As the K-12 education system morphs into one more focused on process, problem solving, college and career readiness, and truly preparing students for their future, we need to change as well. And that can be scary. It might mean changing lessons or adapting resources. It could mean integrating more technology into your instruction. And I guarantee that it means shifting control of learning over to your students.

This semester? Try something new. Something different. Something that you’re not quite sure how it’s going to turn out. One teacher said:

Need a few ideas?

cross posted at glennwiebe.org

Glenn Wiebe is an education and technology consultant with 15 years' experience teaching history and social studies. He is a curriculum consultant forESSDACK, an educational service center in Hutchinson, Kansas, blogs frequently at History Tech and maintains Social Studies Central, a repository of resources targeted at K-12 educators. Visit glennwiebe.org to learn more about his speaking and presentation on education technology, innovative instruction and social studies.