Where do I fit in?

I have found this semester to be one of revelation. I find myself contemplating where I fit in. Not only within the context of my own classmates, but among other educators, and among others in society. At times I feel like the only one who thinks the way that I do, and then at other times I’m astounded by the idea that so many others out there think the same ways that I do, and perhaps like me, are fearful that they are alone!

I have had the opportunity to meet two great authors this semester, and to meet many teachers who agree with their ideologies. I met Joel Westheimer at the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation conference, and had not only the opportunity to hear him speak about concepts from his research and his book, to speak with other educators from across the province about the social issues at hand in the “real world”, and to speak to Mr. Westheimer about the challenges that I have found in facing social issues and activism in the classroom. I also met author, Dave Burgess, who wrote “Teach Like a PIRATE”, and also has a successful publishing company that supports the publication of books that push the boundaries of what is possible in education, giving both teachers and students opportunities to truly grow, reach beyond the traditional classroom and make real connections with both the content they are learning and the community that is created in the classroom. I met Dave at the Saskatchewan Middle Years conference, and again had the chance to network with many other great teachers in our province who exude such passion for education. I truly feel blessed to have had these opportunities to connect with these authors whose passions so seamlessly align with my own ideologies.

But what do these authors and these experiences have to do with social studies education and my place within it? A lot. Social studies is all about connections to the world around you, and if you don’t know where you fit in, then you need to find out. As we discussed in our class, there are 7 Orientations of Social Studies Education:

  1. Educating Citizens for Cultural Conservation
    • Common cultural goals: law abiding, “good citizen”, contributes to conservation of current culture, knowledge and values
  2. Educating Citizens to be Social Scientists
    • Discovering the reality of the world: investigating problems and suggesting solutions through specific disciplines of history, geography, anthropology, etc.
  3. Social Studies as Educating Citizens to be Reflective Inquirers
    • Participatory citizens: identify societal problems, collect, evaluate and analyze information and make choices and reflections based on information gathered. Interact with the world in order to make sense of it.
  4. Social Studies as Educating Citizens for Cultural Transformation
    • Active citizens: willing to engage with issues and make their voices heard in the hopes of making change.
  5. Social Studies as Educating Citizens for Personal Development
    • Cooperative citizens: understanding of how to function in both their personal and social spheres. Cooperation and care and concern for others.
  6. Social Studies as Educating Citizens for Personal Respect for Diversity
    • Acceptance of a cultural mosaic: able to critically examine both their own culture and the culture of others and be accepting of all. Combat racism and oppressive ideologies
  7. Social Studies as Educating Global Citizens
    • Connected on a global scale: examine the common human experience and the interconnectedness of the people of the Earth in the 21st century.

My encounters this semester with colleagues, other teachers, and authors have helped me see where it is that I fit into this picture of social studies education. Though this is a numbered approach, I don’t necessarily view it as sequential and thus needing to “achieve” one level before moving on to the next. I believe that I fit into many of these categories, though not all. I believe that I am a participatory member of my culture and community, and thus suit #1. I like to examine social issues and look for reasons and causes, working at #2 and #3. I work at understanding #5 by trying to understand and work with others while still trying to maintain my own personal sphere. I also am striving to fit into #6 by examining the white privilege I possess and how that can impact me as a teacher, and am actively committed to furthering my understanding of First Nations peoples and other oppressed groups in our society. I also feel that through my connections with educators from across North America, that I am beginning to find ways to reach out globally and learn about the 7th orientation too. I think that technology has given us so much power to be able to reach out across the world, and I am actively seeking ways to do so.

It is the 4th orientation that I struggle with. I feel that an outsider may view me as someone who is speaking my truth to others and standing up for what I believe in. While yes I am not afraid to speak up for what I believe in, I still feel somewhat hesitant in doing this. This is the orientation that I feel I need the most work with on a personal level. I need to work at finding the confidence in my words. This has been part of my journey this semester. I feel that I often keep many ideas to myself, and it is not until I find like-minded individuals that I feel at ease to share my thoughts. While within the safety of my cohort at university I feel slightly more at ease in exploring and expressing my thoughts I am still fearful to take them beyond my comfort zone. As a future educator, this is the area that I feel I will have the most difficulty teaching to students. I love the concept that students can investigate the world and find their voice and share it, and think that perhaps it will be the students who push me to find my own. I think that there is always the fear of  backlash – from peers, parents, and the larger community. I think that in order to dispel this fear we all need to find those comrades in battle, the others who think like us, so that we create a community of mutual support.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZEZTyxSl3g

This is what I have been on the journey to create this semester. By getting to know my classmates better, and having the opportunities to meet with so many like-minded teachers and authors, I feel like I am making progress towards finding out who I am going to be as a social studies educator.

For your viewing pleasure, here are a few fun videos about learning, Social Studies, and education:
This teacher has a great response about why we need to learn Social Studies in school.
Learning how to be unreasonable to change the world.
21st Century Skills

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