To all our members and readers who are part of our profoundly vital profession: THANK YOU! Thank you for opening our minds to explore new places, distant times, and bold futures. Thank you for helping us to stake a claim on ideas and carry them forward. Thank you for teaching us the rights and responsibilities we are afforded as citizens and participants in our communities. You change the world for us!
Our teachers change the world for students. They do so by preparing all students to change their world themselves. How are you changing the world? Last year during Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked everyone to share their stories of #WhyITeachSocialStudies. We welcome more posts to continue this conversation—please keep sharing!
The timing of #TeacherAppreciationWeek this year could not be better. Our nation’s teachers and students are in the spotlight quite a bit lately. Much of the spotlight is about “taking informed action”—our vital fourth dimension of social studies inquiry. The C3 Framework describes this dimension as the following: “In social studies, students use disciplinary knowledge, skills, and perspectives to inquire about problems involved in public issues; deliberate with other people about how to define and address issues; take constructive, independent, and collaborative action; reflect on their actions; and create and sustain groups.”1 When we teach our students the skills and competencies of taking informed action, “action is then a purposeful, informed, and reflective experience.”2
When I began teaching nearly two decades ago, “taking informed action” was not a common phrase in our social studies vocabulary. I taught students in grades 7 and 8—mostly U.S. and state history. In reflection, I see that they were constantly learning tools to dig deeper on the topic beyond my classroom. Together, we also continually connected historical topics to the present day—wondering whether a particular issue was still relevant, and how it might be solved through their best thinking. If you asked me twenty years ago whether I was preparing my students to “take informed action”, I might have paused. Today, I would not hesitate to say “Yes!” In social studies, we now understand that the end result of our learning is not an “end” at all—it is a beginning in which we can do something with our knowledge and understanding.
Our teachers and students practice social studies through informed action every day. By engaging in inquiry (directly and indirectly) so visibly and profoundly, they demonstrate how fundamental all social studies disciplines are to our local, national, and international conversations and issues. When we practice inquiry, we desire to take meaningful, informed action to solve any problem or find an answer to those questions. When we are prepared to take informed action, we become lifelong learners, and deeply engaged in civic life.
Thank you, teachers, for changing our world!
1. The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards: Guidance for Enhancing the Rigor of K-12 Civics, Economics, Geography, and History. (2013). Published by the National Council for the Social Studies, Silver Spring, MD, page 62.