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Teachers have been overlooked as an important factor in society for years but they have endured discrimination, slander, mockery for a love and passion they have to create doctors, lawyers, politicians, artists and many other professions as they aspire to make a difference in the lives of students academically, socially and even spiritually. In the diverse culture of society in Trinidad and Tobago, the education system needs to holistically develop well-adjusted young people and children who can interrelate and contribute to peace, harmony and cohesion in the society.
Social studies is considered the systematic study of an integrated body of content drawn from core disciplines, such as History, Geography, Anthropology, Economics and Political Science which is used to infuse experiences of each individual to form a body of knowledge which facilitates growth and development within a structured society. Social studies emphasize the skills and processes along with settings and perspectives to help students become informed, confident and effective citizens. Social Studies performs an essential role in nurturing the young minds to function competently and effectively in today’s fast paced society where we continue to see rapid growth in advancement of technology and communication and children are now taken from the realities of life. Social Studies has been set in place to remind and show the essential skills such as communication, critical thinking, problem solving as being an integral part of life and being able to contribute not only to the society in which they live but Globally.
An effective teacher is one who would be considered to be respectful, positive, safe and provide a student centered environment for learning. They continually reflect and evaluate the effects of their choices and actions. A student centered teacher, would develop a relationship with his/her students through acts of kindness, caring, empathy, ensuring trust is maintained if information is shared privately. The ability to think critically and communication skills between the teacher and student is taught to allow reasoning skills, information processing skills and enabling the children to give reasons for their opinions and actions, enquiry skills which allows them to ask relevant questions, creative thinking skills and evaluation skills.
A teacher’s dedication and passion to teaching and engaging students in learning allows us to see that not only knowledge of the subject area is shared which is of the head but also the hand and the heart which shows concern and value toward the students. Being organized and having a clear view or goals and understanding of what “the teacher” would want to convey to his/her students is also a quality that makes a teacher effective. This therefore aids in making a difficult topic easy to understand by taking the time to making a lesson memorable by using metaphors and analogies and a variety of natural resources to enhance the lesson. An analytical and synthetic approach would also mean the teacher is knowledgeable in the topic of knowing the past, present and future directions which would help to create an awareness to the students about people, the way they live, their development, their choices or even how they are the same based on human rights , values and inter- dependence.
The growth and development of a child is dependent upon what they learn in the stages from pre-school to Secondary school and as such teachers should include modelling as an effective teaching strategy as this now gives the students an example to follow. Studies on attitudes have concluded that after about the age of thirteen (third form) perceptions and attitudes become extraordinarily difficult to change, and that middle childhood is therefore a “critical period” for developing children’s attitudes about themselves and their world. As we look at the four stages of growth and development in the Primary School, it would give us a greater appreciation and understanding of the curriculum and how we can get easily guide our students in this course. The first stage up to about three years, the children learn by looking, touching and listening. As a teacher of the Social Studies curriculum I would ensure that the children of this age group would learn through various skills such as using safety scissors and crayons, being able to observe, compare group objects or colours, inferring, expressing their ideas and feelings verbally and visually and being able to share materials and work in groups, creating charts and being able to show on a map where they live and where they go to school which would help to create or determine their attitude and perceive placement. This is usually done based on the curriculum by making ME maps that helps them to understand themselves and those around them.
The Second stage of development is age five. Children should have a fair idea of being able to work in groups and about those around them given that they came from a pre-school. The same skills and attitudes learned are now enhanced by greater responsibility and cooperation and problem solving should have been added to their learning. They would be taken outside to identify the different changes on tress, the weather, or maybe animals over a period of time. They should be able to identify different ways children get to school and we can do this as a Map project with the community and means of transport allowing them to put the building on the map using squares and also creating the roads and walkways. The second stage continues from about six to seven, where the children are more interactive and show interest in knowing more outside of their communities and cultures. They have an understanding of doing research on their own and so a project relating to the environment can be given allowing them to be creative and also showing independence in learning through the use of technology. Stage three is about eight year old where there are many different changes in their physical, mental and emotional characteristics. At this stage there is improved coordination, their reading ability increases which allows for them to be able to interact with authority figures and discuss more topics based on current events and making choices based on the environment and learning about needs and wants. A map activity can also be done at this stage, but it would now entail larger areas of the community or industrial parks that can show via an ATLAS the locations and what they are used for. The fourth stage which is from age 9 they begin to think abstractly. They are willing to work in groups. They are learning at this stage to work with time and being able to identify problems and to consider alternate solutions for them. At this stage a project of drawing the map of their country would be given and they would now have to put in the various counties and locate different areas on the map. In being an effective Social Studies teacher we must keep in mind that we and children learn and remember 10% of what we hear, 15% of what we see, 20% of what we both see and hear, 40% of what we discuss with others, 80% of what we experience directly or practice and 90% of what we attempt to teach others.
In conclusion, if teachers attempt to challenge students by modelling what they desire to create in them, reward and reinforce good performance, this would in turn build the self-esteem of the child or children, provide feedback to the children and allow for the creation of positive expectations for the students and the class overall while proposing clear instructional goals then they would be air marked as effective teachers.
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