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Teacher's Choice? Making Connections

Posted by Caitlin Johnson
5 April 2012 - 12:13pm

In social studies class, teachers will run into topics that they love - or hate.  Nevertheless, all topics, objectives, goals and themes put forth by the individual Departments of Education for each province need to be met. So, do teacher's have any flexibility or choice in what they teach their students? 

In reality, teacher's are to assume the role of a type of 'vessel,' through which all of this need-to-know information originates from, so students leave class with new ideas and knowledge to grow from and utilize in becoming the 'ideal Canadian citizen.'  Having said that, how many teachers out there can truly say they have 'stuck to the curriculum guide' and 'kept in line with the requirements for the course.'  Come on!  Teachers go in to this profession because they love learning, and they have knowledge to offer and the intense desire to share it.  

While taking my Public History course at Saint Mary's with Dr. Nicole Neatby, I was able to see the connection between what she described as 'audience expectations' and teaching social studies.   With regards to a museum or historical insitution, the curators and interpreters must create narratives and provide information to the public, while keeping in mind the visitor as an individual and their prior knowledge base,  and their expectations for learning, of the museum or its' exhibits.  Teachers go through a very similar rationalization process when going through curriculum requirements they must divulge to their students, and what 'goodies' of history they can also sneak in.  Our students are our audience, and like museums, we can create our own type of 'special exhibits' by sharing our areas of specialization; whether it be Canadian history, theatre, philosophy or sciences.  

In many classes I have taught, whether they be social studies or otherwise, I have used history as a basis for relevancy, comparing and contrasting, and explaining how things have come to be the way they are.  As a Canadian history enthusiast, I have also always tried to include snippets of Canada's involvement in major events.  An example of this would be while teaching Modern History 11; a very broad spectrum class on history.  During the unit on WWII, I always included bits of information on Canada's involvement, whether curriculum called for it or not.  After all, we ARE Canadians!  Usually, if I don't provide relevancy similar to this while teaching, the students ask me, 'What was our role?" or "What were we doing during this time?"  Questions like that provide me with the feedback that students are intrigued and even more so, want to know more! 

Teachers, although required to meet certain goals, benchmarks and themes or theories, are permitted a certain amount of leeway with regards to the subjects they teach.  Otherwise, why would school administrations choose to hire teachers over robots?  Each teacher brings with them a little bit 'extra' to their classroom, and that's exactly what every school needs.  

What do you add to your teaching that sets you apart?