Week Six (Knowing Your Audience and Yourself )

Zevin and Wineburg hit on the point that I think not many people think about when they decide to go into teaching, especially when you go into teaching history. They both hit on the fact that there are many different perceptions and ways in which education can be done. Zevin’s section on “Your Student Audience.” really resonated with me, he goes into depth about why you must know your student audience and how knowing who you are teaching can help make you a better teacher. Even though these students are a few years removed from elementary school, teachers should still take their viewpoints seriously. Zevin talks about how you should engage in discussions even when they might get immature. I do agree with this. If we cannot meet these students where they are and on their level, how do we expect to teach them? That is a viewpoint that also came up in the Wineburgs section on “Peering at History Through Different Lenses” among the four quoted teachers; a general consensus was made that teachers should make history and social studies meaningful. These four teachers had their own difficulties due to their wide educational backgrounds in achieving this, however, they all tried to teach history from a meaningful perceptive based on their backgrounds, some were able to branch out and start teaching (and learning) other perspectives, while others just stuck to what made them comfortable. While I think there is much merit to teaching what you are comfortable with there is also much information you miss when you do this. I think the old saying, “You do not know what you do not know,” holds much value here. Take teacher Fred, for example; when teaching the Industrial Revolution, because of his background, he focused on the changing American economic system and the financial players of that time. However, he did not mention the social changes that helped influence the Industrial revolution. Everyone has their own way of teaching, and it is not my place to agree or disagree with someones teaching style or what they emphasize; however, I think there is so much more that can/should be taught when dealing with social studies. Wineburg quotes Jacques Barzun and says that history “is something in someone’s head… (that) has to be cultivated in a certain way, by reading genuine history”. There is obviously more to history than names and dates, and there are many ways to teach it. After these few readings, I will try to be a teacher who can put away my biases, know my strengths, my weakness, and above all my students and how best to reach them where they are.

Wineburg, Sam. Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001. ISBN: 9781566398565 [Amazon link]

Zevin, Jack. Social Studies for the Twenty-First Century: Methods and Materials for Teaching in Middle and Secondary Schools. 4th edition. New York: Routledge, 2015. ISBN: 9780415749794 [Amazon link]