HOW CAN YOU ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL STUDIES?
When members of the legislature think back to when they were in school, they remember Social Studies as being about memorizing dates and data that are quickly forgotten. For this and many other reasons, Social Studies has found itself in a fight to stay classified as a core subject equal to Language Arts, Science, and Math. We need to reteach our Legislative and Congressional leaders as to what the modern Social Studies classroom is all about. We are how society learns to connect past to present, be critical consumers of information, and how to become active citizens. This is your chance to speak out.
Ways to making sure your voice is heard:
1: Know your legislators. They are in office to represent you and want to meet and have conversations with their constituents. Your voice does count and needs to be heard.
2: Think about what you would like to teach them about Social Studies. What are some good things that are happening concerning Social Studies in your school, district, and statewide? What are things that are making it harder to be successful and help kids be the active, critical, and reflective citizens they need to be? Are there any relevant bills before the House or Senate that you could mention by bill number? Write up a "Leave Behind" sheet with your main points, bill numbers, and other important data.
3: Set up meetings with your legislators.
- Send a letter to set up a meeting with your representative’s scheduler.
- Identify yourself as a constituent and also identify yourself by profession (teacher, administrator, professor, or student).
- Inform the scheduler the date and time you will be in Washington, DC or Olympia (Thursday, February 18, between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m., for example)
- You might need to email a written request for a meeting in addition to the phone call. Be sure to ask for the email address.
- Do not be discouraged if you do not get in on your first attempt. The Congressional Calendars are very full. Be patient and persistent.
4: When you get in and have an appointment keep these in mind.
- Bring a camera. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to document your experience.
- Your appointment will probably last between 15 and 30 minutes. Be sure to allow 20-30 minutes between appointments to allow time to travel between your representatives offices (if you're going all the way to Olympia or DC, you should make appointments with all of your senators and representatives on the same day)
- If you are going with a colleague, keep the number of people per visit small enough (2-3 people) for easy communication of ideas.
- Be prepared to leave information behind for them to refer too.
5: Make sure you follow up every meeting with a thank you letter.
The Washington State Council for Social Studies (WSCSS) is coming off one of our most successful years in recent history. With the recent success of the National Council for Social Studies Annual Conference in Seattle in 2012, we have continued to see a renewed interest in high quality social studies professional development and collaboration among educators. We started our year with our Fall In-service in Edmonds in October that had record attendance and an exciting program. We followed that conference with another stellar K-8 Conference at MOHAI in February with local history coming alive at a beautiful new venue. Finally our Chelan Leadership Retreat continued the trend of well attended, high quality events.We continue to focus on providing engaging and dynamic professional development opportunities that teachers can implement in their classrooms. We also believe that the quality of our programs are only exceeded by the quality of our participants, and the opportunities to learn from our social studies colleagues remains unparalleled in the state. As the current educational climate supports the value of science, technology, engineering and math, we continue to be the advocate for social studies as the critical piece of education for citizens in an active democracy. Through our work, we hope to prepare teachers to support the future active citizens our society desperately needs.As we look into the future, there are three areas in which we want to continue to expand what the WSCSS does.
We want to move our offerings to match the best practices of professional development - We will continue to deliver our powerful conferences throughout the year, but we are looking for ways to provide support for teacher once they head back to their classrooms. We want to look at ways to make the learning on-going, classroom based and reflective. We want to continue to bring together the best minds in social studies education, but we now wish to keep them together, collaborating and sharing the valuable work that they do. We want to move into the 21st century - While attending one of the three conferences that the WSCSS provides is still the most powerful part of participating in our organization, we know that this is not possible for everyone. We would like to examine how we can provide our conferences on-line to teachers throughout the state. We further wish to look at how we can create an archive of exceptional instruction and strategies that can positively change the way social studies is taught in Washington.We want to work to support the teaching of social studies at the state level - We want to continue to work with districts, ESDs (Educational Service Districts) and OSPI (The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, to promote social studies as critical to citizenship and success in a democracy. We also wish to work with local officials, non-profits and other professional organizations to ensure that the social studies is valued and its teachers are supported.
As we look forward, we continue to have dreams for social studies in Washington. We dream about the day that social studies is seen as critical as any class to building a successful, healthy and engaged citizenry. While economic motivations are important for the future of education, we also need students to think and ask questions. We do not want to train engineers, computer programmers and scientists that are simply good at taking orders. Some of our dreams for the future for Washington State are:
Continued focus on the importance of civics education for students to be successful in a democratic society – We want to continue to promote the C3 Framework (College, Career and Civic) as critical to educating future Americans and the students of Washington StatePreservation and enhancement of the teaching of Washington State History – We want to make sure we put Washington back into history in Washington State. We want students to understand where they are on along with how they got there and where they can go in the future. Continued support of social studies K-12 – We want social studies not to be another activity, but a way of thinking and living that we teach to students and support from the beginning.
As a member driven organization, we continue to look for your insight to guide us forward. Our dreams cannot exceed your imagination.At this time, we look to our members to continue to support our efforts. We are a volunteer run organization and we continue to need volunteers to keep us going. Please let us know how you can help us. Think about volunteering or presenting at conferences, bringing friends and colleagues, suggesting or taking on new initiative or even running for a board position. We will only go as far as all of you are willing to take us. We have high hopes, the future is bright, and we believe we have the people in this room to help us go forward.
- John Hines WSCSS Co-President