Musings of a 21st Century Middle School Social Studies Teacher
The other day, I was talking about some of the changes in my classroom this year with an esteemed colleague of mine. She is a very experienced retired teacher and now works as an instructional aide to some of our middle school students with learning needs and also helps the teachers in carrying out differentiated instruction. She pointed out, "Wow. You are really making them think this year!" In years past, I may have been a little apprehensive of pushing all students to this point... in my naivety. Perhaps in some ways thinking that some students only needed the basic learning/understanding. Boy, was I wrong! It is in this thinking, STRETCHING, reaching beyond our comfort zone that we learn! We cannot learn new things unless we venture into the unknown! Unless we act upon what we know or are learning. If we do not challenge our students to think critically and respond critically to what they are learning, we are not preparing them to do so on their own in the future. All of our teaching and instruction should be oriented toward stretching their thinking!
No no! Not this type of stretching! This looks painful!
Just as we stretch before we exercise, stretching our thinking and brains allows us to push ourselves further as we warm up on our walk or jog! As we and students begin to think critically by analyzing, evaluating, and finding solutions, we are training our mind to work harder in the future.
Have you ever thought of it this way? If we only ever prepare our students to listen, memorize, and take tests, what are we preparing them for in the future? Umm... Their Driver's Test? The SAT? (Not really!) Maybe MAT and GRE? The Praxis Tests for our future "mini-me's"? No! I have very little else to look forward to in the future, if this is the case!
We must challenge our students to stretch, create, and find solutions! In my Social Studies class, I plan to continue to encourage students to engage in current events in our community, state, country, and world! Beyond simple reflection and summarizing, what can THEY do about it? How can they respond to these events and local happenings? Is there a solution to a problem? A person or people to comfort or reach out to? This is stretching beyond traditional consumption of information. In this case, I hope that my students will take the information, think and DO SOMETHING about it. If they do this, they are stretching their minds much further than a traditional "once-and-done" assignment mentality.
In the end, let's encourage our students to THINK, TO STRETCH beyond their comfort zone and DO SOMETHING about what they are learning!
p.s. This reminds me of a popular song! See below!