Warning - This post will be a bit rambling.
I teach junior high school History. The subject I teach probably won't change, as I am at the tail end of my teaching career. Recently, I thought of something a bit disturbing while browsing at a bookstore with a couple of history books in my hands, "Do I need these for my teaching?"
This was a disturbing question for me. I have what I consider a nice little library of mostly history titles, mostly non-fiction. I looked at the titles, "To Kingdom Come," by Robert J. Mrazek (WWII first person accounts of a 1943 B-17 raid on Stuttgart) and Col. Robert W. Black's "Ranger Dawn: American Ranger from the Colonial Era to the Mexican War." Both are in my range of interests, one within the parameters of my current teaching assignment. But I doubt I will use or need the material for the survey history course level I teach. So why buy them?
We history teachers have been told to "stick to the standards." Yech. The California Standards for 8th grade US History are, lets just say, lacking in so many ways. We are pretty much relegated to teaching relevant vocabulary, a few names and dates, how to find such things in a very abbreviated expository text (the reading study guide that came with our big, heavy State-adopted textbook)... we're supposed to do the number the paragraphs, circle vocabulary and names followed by underlining the definition or why person Y is important....etc..etc... As long as it is standards based. NOT too interesting or exciting for most students.
So, with such a formula, is there a need to attend conferences to get new ideas? Surf the web to search out new teaching ideas? Spend one's dwindling money to buy stuff like "Dinah Zikes Big Book of U.S. History," (she is a huge proponent of "foldables")? Continue to search for ideas to make history more relevant, interesting and exciting for my students? Is there time for that, in the time allotted for class?
I have always been one to try to cram as much "interesting" stuff into my lessons as I can....I think the "little" stuff, small bits of this and that are what can help bring history alive and interesting for students with very limited exposure to this discipline. But to continue to search and spend money to add stuff to one's "toolbox" when the fact is, I probably won't be teaching this stuff ten years from now. And have been tasked with "Get them ready for the State Social Studies test" and don't worry about all the other stuff.....and use the materials we (the district) bought....
Those two books? I bought them. Used my 25% off discount for teachers (if the material is subject related to what you teach). I read for my own learning too, and my own enjoyment. Sharing it with the students is good, when you can.
But, should I change? Stop searching and just use what I have accumulated over the past 27 years? There are other things to use my time and money for.....
Anyhow, what do you think? What do you do?