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Teacher Preparation for Active Use of This Site
Kenneth T. Saroka
Social Studies Teacher
East Brunswick (NJ) High School


At the first meetings of the Global Citizen 2000 Task Force, a cautionary warning went out about creating volumes of very good curriculum that could wind up sitting in a D-ring binder on some obscure shelf in a dusty office. Creation is one thing--use is another.

The fact that you are here at this web site is one major example of the changing face of teacher preparation. The Internet has become a major source of information, expanding the available of knowledge at an exponential rate. However, with this expansion of knowledge came the frustration in trying to weed out the unreliable and integrate the beneficial materials. Teachers who realize that this process can consume time and energy often get frustrated and do not bother to use these types of curriculum development programs and, ergo, they end up collecting dust on a shelf. Take a moment to read this note, and perhaps some of that frustration will disappear as you integrate this material into your existing coursework--no need to reinvent the wheel.

WHAT IS THE OBJECTIVE?

Look at your course curriculum guides. Look at them honestly. When was the last revision? Was it really a revision or what is simply plugging in the new textbook to the old outlines? This is the first obstacle--the text is the curriculum and the curriculum is the text in many cases. Elective courses may have more flexibility, but where are they grounded?

What is the objective? What are you trying to teach about Buddhism? What is so important about acid rain and the environment? Why are your students reading poems from Japan? Are the headlines in your curriculum simply the textbooks chapter headings? Are the objectives measurable student behavior? Are your units linked to the relevant core content standards established and mandated by your state?

An example here from my experience teaching in New Jersey: NJ Social Studies Core Content Standard 6.2 directs teachers to include art, literature, philosophy, and music in our lessons. The Department of Education has included many indicators of progress at different grade levels, but essentially I need to incorporate into my 19th century European History lessons music and literature beyond just snipets of the Communist Manifesto. This web site will provide such relief for teachers in many cases and in many topic areas. The point here is to look to what your state standards ask, apply them to the course and its needs, and then look for the appropriate materials. All too often, currciulum packages have been dropped on the teachers' laps by well-meaning supervisors with little understanding of how they fit into the the larger picture--the larger picture of the overall state (or national) standard.

HOW DOES ONE STRETCH OUT TO INCORPORATE THIS?

In Educational Theory classes, teachers learned that John Dewey stressed relevance and problem solving in a time when rote memorization and drill were overwhlemingly dominant instructional methods. His students in Chicago, trained to solve problems and practically apply learning, in an eight-year study, performed as well or better than traditionally educated students of similar backgrounds. Making the materials come alive and making the connections of the past to the present (and future) do make for greater student understanding than memorization of vocabulary words. Essential meaning is culled from finding the applications of concepts, not just the rote recitation of the definitions of those concepts.

Many of the activities in these lessons focus on group interaction and simulation. Yes, that can be an truly academically ugly concept, especially if it involves mere busywork, where one person in the small group does all the work and is forced to share the grade with the others. If the time is taken on your part to understand the outcome (concept) then the students can direct themselves. Materials, links to relevant web sites, media programs (such as PowerPoints or Flash presentations), are found throughout the Global Citizen 2000 lessons. Many of the forms (grading rubrics, instructions) can be adapted to meet your needs such as grade level and academic level, but do not sell your students short. I ran a model OPEC nations conference with low achieving academic level students and they got more out of that simulation than I could have ever done with common text-driven lessons on the Middle East. The fact that they did not come to any resolution to the problems they were debating in formal conference was not a hinderance to their achievement. The fact that the debate was very cantankerous and a war between member nations almost broke out gave them the perfect understanding of OPEC and the role of oil and politics in the Middle East.

BE NOT AFRAID OF INTERDISCIPLINARY WORK

As mentioned above, the New Jersey Department of Education wants Social Studies teachers to include art and literature, and I am sure that your district or your state encourages it. One does not have to be an expert on classical music to use it in a History class....just compare one movement from a Mozart symphony (in 1789) to one movement from Dvorak's Symphony from the New World (1894) and your students will HEAR how Europe is changing in the 19th century. Visually, compare the quiet confidence of the portrait art of Thomas Gainsborough's Blue Boy (1770) with Van Gogh's Self Portrait (1889) or Starry Night (1889)...students can pick up the differences. Fiction can be just as valuable at getting the point across as your text.. Readings from Dickens' Oliver Twist can flesh out the horrors of industrial London in the 1830s where Turgenev's Fathers and Sons can show the plight of arictocrats and serfs in mid-19th century Russia. Be mindful of your own district's policies concerning controversial materials, but if you are able to find the supplemental teacher materials that came with your textbook, you may find many new selections of literature or art.

ASSESSMENT

Included on this site will be methods for you to formally give the GC 2000 Task Force feedback on the effectiveness of the lessons and unit you are using. There will also be opportunities for further study, including teacher exchange projects and teleconferencing.

It is our earnest desire that these units can be an effective tool in fostering gloabl awareness.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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