History not Content

“The Need for Projects Like This One”

I never felt comfortable being called a Social Studies teacher. It makes me feel like I should be singing “The People In Your Neighborhood” from Sesame Street. There’s nothing wrong with the song. I know that it’s a classic and I’m sure you are humming it right now. I am and it’s 1:30 in the morning on July 5th. My complaint is that instead of being called a Social Studies teacher I would much rather be referred to as a history teacher. Am I being petty? What worries me is this growing feeling I have that our days are numbered as history or social studies teachers (whichever term you prefer).

I hear things. I hear things that bother me. Maybe they shouldn’t bother me. Maybe I’m too sensitive. Maybe I’m paranoid. I do enjoy a good episode of Doomsday Preppers. I was talking to a few teachers who work at various high schools throughout Queens about their buildings. I like to keep my ear to the ground. It makes me feel like an undercover agent. Real French Connection kinda stuff. I heard that some schools are combining the English Department with the Social Studies Department to form a Humanities Department. That sounds worse than Social Studies. Humanities….

My principal recently hired a new AP for Social Studies. The last one retired in January. She packed her bags, ate some pizza that we bought her, and waved goodbye. It was a little embarrassing on my part. Here is a woman who graduated from Columbia Law School, received her Ed.D. from St. John’s University, and was an Assistant Principal for over 20 years and all we got her was pizza. Don’t get me wrong, it was really good pizza. The new AP seems like a nice person but something happened at the first meeting that made me feel like my girlfriend just kissed another guy. I’m too sensitive. He said that the Global Regents is changing (wait for it). It’s going to be more reading comprehension based questions (wait for it). It will only be based on 10th grade curriculum. There will still be essays but eventually the bulk of the test will be reading passages with with questions to follow (almost there). We don’t have to worry about all of this “content crap” (punch to the gut). Huh? Content crap? Did my new AP just refer to the content as crap? I must have misunderstood.

I understand the need for focusing on skills. My students are in desperate need of help when it comes to writing. They love to debate but when it comes to writing an essay or finding the main idea of a speech, they struggle. I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know what to do when it comes to improving the writing skills for my students. Only 40% of all of the students at my school passed the Global Regents. As horrible as that number is, the 40% is an improvement from last year.

I want my students, and even my new AP, to see the value of content. The word content sounds cold. Instead of content, let’s use the word history. By saying content is not important is the same as saying history is not important. I believe this is the road we are heading down and I don’t like it. I want this project to be a revelation. I believe by having students learn about their ancestry and their history they will appreciate Global History. I see potential in this project and I look forward to our week together in July.

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