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What is social studies and why do we teach it?

During my educational career I have met many aspiring teachers as well as those whove been in the
field for many years. Listening to their experiences and advice has given me a chance to open my
mind to a list of possibilities. Their advice along with my own learned lessons have begun to shape
me as an educator. My field experience so far has consisted of Mrs. Daviss ninth grade world history
course and her eleventh grade advanced American history. She teaches as Edison High School in
Milan, Ohio. Fortunately, Ive been granted with an opportunity to see Mrs. Davis from a unique
angle. Because I was her student in high school Ive been able to analyze what it was like learning
from her as well as how she has achieved success from an educators perspective. While I was
observing her there were two questions that came to mind which I will be discussing.
What motivates Mrs. Davis to be a social studies educator?
Without directly asking Mrs. Davis I was curious to figure out what motivated her to teach social
studies. Through the weeks that I was observing I noticed that she was passionate about social
justice. She often taught her students about middle class citizens during major world events.
Afterwards she would always ask her students to reflect on the lesson and to put themselves in the
shoes of those who were afflicted by the decisions of leaders and governments. She did this
because she wanted her students to understand history from the perspective of someone similar to
themselves. After class she would discuss with me why it was important that her students were
aware.
Although my student teaching experience with Mrs. Davis was last year I still find relevancy in the
time I spent with her. As I take more education classes I am brought to new information that lets me
reflect on my time in her classroom and broadens my knowledge. This new knowledge allows me
learn about her and why she chose to teach social studies. For example, last week I discussed three
different teachers beliefs about citizenships. While I was reading the article Beyond Personally
responsible I was able to compare and contrast all three types of teachers and determine which most
accurately described Mrs. Davis. Out of the three I would say that Mrs. Davis fits perfectly under the
participatory teacher category. She encourages her students to think critically about social issues
and ideologies. She uses her classroom as a forum for application and introduces her students to
ways in which they can play an active role in community.
Without directly asking Mrs. Davis what motivated her to teach social studies I was able to come to a
conclusion given the evidence I have received through my experience in and out of the classroom.
Mrs. Davis teaches social studies because she feels obligated to bettering our future generations
through citizenship, critical thinking, and awareness of the world around us. Not only does she
encourage her students to be active participants in their community and school but she leads by
example.

How is Mrs. Davis preparing her students in citizenship?


Mrs. Davis is able to prepare her students for citizenship in many ways. Her lesson plans are
especially interactive and engaging in hopes that her students connect to the material. In the article
Why Kids dont like Social Studies I learned that one of the biggest reasons why students are not
interested in social studies is because they dont understand why the knowledge is valuable.
Students also tend to think that social studies is boring. Because Mrs. Davis purposely makes her
lesson plans interactive she is able to combat those two concerns. By making her class interesting
she is opening the door for learning. She allows her students to debate, teach, and ask questions
without fear of judgment.
Three specific ways Mrs. Davis has allowed her students to engage is citizenship is by allowing them
to have some control in the classroom, allowing time for debate, and encouraging critical thinking.
Students are to participate in classroom activities and group work. At the end of each chapter Mrs.
Davis assigns a group project. Students are to complete the project together in class and monitors
each group to make sure that equal and fair work is distributed. Students can decide what kind of
project they will do (ex. Essay, presentation, diagram, etc.). Because students are taking an active
role in their education they are practicing citizenship. They are being allowed to participate in ways
that will help them once they are out in the real world. Mrs. Davis sets her classroom up to ensure
that her students will be active and informed citizens.