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In search of excellence: How does an exemplary social studies teacher teach

1 August 1992


"You want to teach social studies, huh? And you want to know if you can get a job? Well," the retired assistant superintendent paused, "can you coach? Football would be your best bet." Unfortunately, my conversation with this experienced employer revealed a pervasive attitude towards social studies . The assistant superintendent confided in me that social studies was not the subject which demanded great teaching skill, so too often, this is where he would place teachers whose coaching ability surpassed their teaching proficiency. This paper addresses the problem of poor teaching in social studies. Those individuals who are trained by the government to detect counterfeit bills, study the real thing. That is the principle I have used to examine the supposed teaching deficiency in social studies. Instead of looking at·the negative aspects of teachers, I have tried to describe the characteristics of an excellent teacher. Four areas consistently surfaced in the readings which are relevant to excellent teaching in the social studies classroom: teachers' expectations, content relevancy and meaning, classroom management, and student engagement. What an excellent teacher might be like in theory, however, is much different than the nine-to-five realities of teaching. This theme emerges in my observations as well as my concluding comments.


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