Which themes and skills reflected in the national and state standards do you consider to be the most vital to teach? Explain why. In which discipline areas does this occur?
Given the list of Ten Themes of Social Studies (National Council for the Social Studies [NCSS], n.d.), I would pick “Individual Development and Identity” as my highest priority.
My goal as a teacher is to both create relevance in the material to enhance learning and to concentrate my time with my students on material that will be of use in their lives. While everything on the NCSS list is important, nothing will be as valuable as personal identity. It is impossible to have stable, resilient self-efficacy in the absence of a clear sense of self. Likewise, it is terribly hard to interact with other humans in community absent comfort with one’s own identity. Finally, knowing what we do not know is central to both self-knowledge and effective learning. By giving my students the tools to understand themselves, I am giving them the ability to withstand more easily many of the traumas of youth. For example, it is not enough to know that Howard Gardner identified multiple intelligences. The power of that construct is in understanding that we are all differently gifted and appropriately so. Knowing our own capacities and proclivities with regard to these intelligences is a wonderful gift that will buffer adolescent angst and clear the way for focus and optimal proficiency in life.
In addition, “Individual Development and Identity” is a wonderful place to begin learning the other nine Themes. This theme’s description directly references two other themes (“Culture” and “Individuals, Groups, and Institutions”). It also must cover “People, Places, and Environments” and “Time, Continuity, and Change” by way of creating perspective and context for self. That is half the list right there. If I only cover that, I feel like I have given my students an enormous advantage as they move forward with their lives. If one of the main themes of my teaching is personal power, power to build a mindful, joyful, satisfying life, a strong sense of self and a strong sense of one’s relationship to time, space, people, and change is crucial and nearly sufficient to that goal.
National Council for the Social Studies. (n.d.). National curriculum standards for social studies: Chapter 2—the themes of social studies. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from http://www.socialstudies.org/standards/strands