Monday, May 12, 2014

World War II -- The War to End All Content?

When I was in middle school, we had a social studies teacher who was a WWII veteran. As kids, we knew that all we had to do to get him off-track from the lesson was to ask him about WWII. He would then tell (boring, in my 12-year old opinion) war stories instead of whatever we were supposed to learn. We never made it past World War II in our content.

In high school, my favorite teacher was a World History teacher who had escaped Nazi Germany as a small child with his parents. He also told World War II stories (I thought his were more interesting, but that’s just me). In World History (and later AP Euro with the same teacher) we never learned anything past WWII in our content.

My other favorite teacher, my high school US History teacher also stopped content at WWII (except Civil Rights. I learned solid Civil Rights in his class)

In college my favorite professor was a dry, sarcastic World History professor. He was an unbelievable wealth of knowledge. I took his classes for everything -- Western Civ, History of Britain, Modern History. Those classes also ended at WWII.

It wasn’t until later, until I was studying for my NBCT assessment that I realized that I didn’t know anything about the post-WWII world. I had a decent clue about the Cold War in general, but not the particulars, like Korea or the Cuban Missile Crisis. I had missed the Decolonization era completely. I had no idea what terrorism was until 9/11. I knew there was something up in the Middle East, but I couldn’t have told you what. I knew the US went to war in the Persian Gulf in the early 90s, but I didn’t really pay attention. I knew that a president got “in trouble” at something called Watergate, but I didn’t know what that was all about.

I knew almost nothing about the second half of the twentieth century because every class I ever had ended with World War II.


It’s rough for all of us. And as my boss Linda likes to say, “Our content gets longer every year.”

So much of our world is the way it is because of things that have happened in the past 60 (or 20) years.

We can’t understand the kidnapping of the schoolgirls in Nigeria and Boko Haram without an understanding of the nature of 21st Century terrorism, militant Islam, African de-colonization and the poverty that has increased there since independence.  

We can’t understand the crisis in Ukraine without understanding not only the Crimean War and WWI but the fall of the USSR and the rise of the EU.

(PS -- Check out the California History-Social Science Project's latest resource -- "Current Context" where they give historical context to current events. The first one is on Ukraine )

In our own country we can’t understand the polarization of politics or the debate on gay marriage or the debt ceiling crisis without understanding recent history.

If you’re still on WWII in any class, it’s past time to wrap that up. Skip ahead to the new stuff.

6e8f06b18d5a9f4df6e32d814c98f0ec.jpgAnd while you are frantically trying to cram in all the recent content you can in the next three weeks, take a few minutes to reflect on your pacing this year.  (Except EOC classes. You all enjoy some much deserved exhaling and slowing down and teaching of the stuff you flew thorough).

Did you follow the Curriculum Guide pacing? Did you cover everything you wanted to? What content did you extend? What content did you zip through? What content did you skip? What did you wish you could spend more time on?

Before you leave for the summer and take your heard-earned down time, jot down some notes about your pacing from this year (if you’re like me, you'll forget by the end of June). Make yourself a note about where you did well and where you want to improve. Where you took too much time and where you didn’t take enough.
Make a note about what project took too much time and what unit was too quick. Comment on where you had to reteach.

Jot them on a sticky note you can find again or type them in a Word doc or write them with an actual pen and paper. Put them in Evernote or in your phone.  It doesn't matter how you write them or where you leave them -- as long as you can find them again at the end of the summer. It is always such a help to spend a few minutes dedicated to reflecting on your pacing so you can use your own experience and expertise to improve your craft next year.

Once you have some notes down about your own pacing, take one extra minute and think about how you can get to the more modern content. How can you get past WII to 1980 or 2000 (or the Roman Empire or Reconstruction for 6th and 8th grade teachers)

As one of my favorite education superstars, Bill McBride says, “The systems you have in place are perfect for the results you are getting”. Check your systems. You’re the only one who knows where your pacing was awesome and where it could be improved.

Counting down to the end of the year? How far did you get this year? Any pacing “a-ha” moments? As always, I love to hear your thoughts! Email me

No comments:

Post a Comment