President’s Message – Fall 2012

I trust your summer has been as beautiful as mine has been. We have been blessed with great weather, the opportunities for beach days, travel, cookouts, concerts, picnics, and family gatherings and amusements of all shapes and sizes. A time that we have all had to be rejuvenated, to be replenished. And now, we take that energy and renewed enthusiasm back into our classrooms and corridors, ready to engage students in great debate, genuine discovery, and constructive understanding of our world, our country, and our peoples. What a wonderful challenge we embrace every year. And it is exactly that – a challenge, for there are numerous obstacles within school systems and communities to overcome. However, there is equally wonderful support out there as well. We know there are countless parents who appreciate what we do; we know there are so many administrators who believe in the classroom teacher; we know there are curriculum coordinators and specialists who love the work we do in our classrooms.

And the reason for that support and admiration? Because just as it truly is a challenge, so do we truly embrace the challenge. Every teacher does return with enthusiasm, but the Social Studies teacher energetically takes on a vast array of topics, issues, questions, investigations, scenarios, and must be informative, constructive, and remain neutral all while dealing with less time to achieve than ever before. So walk tall Social Studies Teacher! You have done and will continue to do us all proud!!

Now this is not a total “pollyanna” approach here. We fully realize the many difficulties ahead, and my rose-colored glasses are not blinding me. However, we can not stop being positive, for if we do, it seeps into our classroom, into our instruction, into our constructiveness. We can’t allow that to happen, for we are teaching about what has been overcome in the past and what must be ‘constructed’ in the future in order for students to become citizens beyond simply reaching the legal age of 18. If we allow the negative to overwhelm, we stop teaching. That is not who we are, simple as that.

And there are positive directions being taken, in small steps true, but still there are steps being taken. First, over the past summer, I observed a group of Social Studies teachers under a Race To The Top grant creating SS units for statewide use. Their work was enthused, positive, and will prove to be of great benefit to classroom teachers in every school system. They have not created a full curriculum, but some fine units that will serve as springboards to other quality work. Secondly, there are two programs being laid out that will hopefully lead to some terrific student independent research – an oral history project funded by the MacArthur Foundation involving Veterans (WW II, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan) and a project sponsored by the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission on Civil War monuments throughout the commonwealth. Both of these projects should provide an opportunity for genuine independent research that will help students learn real history and real skills. Third, Senator Richard Moore is heading a Special Commission on Civic Engagement and Learning that is creating a set of recommendations that support Social Studies education at all levels, and the MCSS certainly supports this effort and the direction these recommendation are taking.

The year has just started and already we find ourselves looking forward. How forward? I have already been contacted by the National Council for the Social Studies regarding the national conference which will be in Boston in November 2014! But most important we look forward to the work we have in front of us, the student citizens that enter our classrooms everyday, waiting for us to light them up. What an awesome challenge! What a wonderful embrace we wrap around that challenge!