John Dewey said, “Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.”
My interpretation of the social education and teaching elementary social studies aligns with just that. It seems to me that “The Nature of Social Education” article and outline we read for this week is in complete agreement, too. Effective educators committed to supporting students to be thriving members of a communicative and vibrant society do not simply want students to “be taught,” but rather, we’d prefer for students to really “learn.” To an average citizen, or even a mediocre educator, the difference between these concepts may not exist; but to me, putting the student in the responsible, active voice or experience makes all the difference. Social studies is one area of education that is often overlooked, but, as emphasized in the same article from Hamston & Murdoch, can and should be integrated with content from other curricula to education and allow students to fully experience their education, their lives, and the world we all live in.
Black Ants and Buddhists by Mary Cowhey is unlike any ‘textbook’ I’ve ever had to read. It is not only easy to get through, but makes me smile and offers legitimate teaching advice from a legitimate teacher. While almost all of her experiences and anecdotes in the Prologue and beginning of the third chapter seem nothing but idealistic (particularly in the children’s reactions and understandings of the classroom and world they participate in), I think there is great value to her positivity and specific explanations of her routine and philosophy towards children and teaching. This first grade teacher runs and inspirational, integrated-curricula classroom (full of little geniuses, I might add). While she may have full access to some resources that other schools and teachers may not, the purposeful activities, routines, games, and discussions she includes can still be applicable to any elementary teacher. I am specifically grateful for the detail she includes in her daily schedule, outlining what typical activities look like, providing alternatives for those activities depending on the day and situation, explaining why she includes and elaborates upon this or the other, and effective ways to integrate lessons throughout the day – never isolating lessons or dragging on. I think it is important for elementary teachers, especially in the primary grades, to learn to effectively use mini-lessons like hers throughout the day, AND to establish such a routine as she has. I can honestly see myself using this book as a crucial resource during my first couple years of teaching, and modeling my own classroom and instruction on Ms. Cowhey’s.