What Did Science and Social Studies Ever Do To YOU?

Alternative title for this post – When Are We Going To Stop Shafting the Good Stuff?

Yesterday I gave some ideas (Okay, I gave THE idea that will change your LIFE.) about how to organize all the crap we teachers feel the need to shlep home every night only to have it stare at us as we attempt to, oh, I don’t know, clean our houses, make dinner or (gasp) try to enjoy our evenings. Together we discussed organizing our (what can I call it now?) Teacher Crap into a series of folders. And I made the comment that I usually combine Science and Social Studies materials into one folder…because for some reason those subjects always get the shaft. Or at least the tended to at my school.

Our mornings were routine and untouchable. None of the shenanigans (surprise assemblies, impromptu parents showing up with a freaking birthday cake unannounced, etc) seemed to take place in the morning. The morning was sacred. And while I was lucky to have a great deal of control over when I taught each subject and in what order, it was made very clear that The Mornings were reserved for Reading and Writing. And sometimes Word Study. Of course, in the afternoon, we had to fit in Math. Then we had to go to some sort of special (read: Prep, glorious prep!), we read a book out loud and WHAM! It was time to go.

But wait, what about poor science or lonely social studies? Nobody seemed to care. Oh, they talked a big game about the importance of these subjects, but somehow never seemed to really be involved in the real conversation about THERE’S NOT ENOUGH TIME IN THE DAY TO DO IT ALL.

My Super Colleagues and I would often sit together to plot out our time. We liked to stay relatively on the same page. God forbid we don’t teach reading for an hour a day, five days a week. Shame on us if you don’t plan for five blocks of writing at 50 minutes each. We were insane to even THINK about, suggest, or even hint at skimping on an hour of math a day, every day, not including all the math we did during our morning meeting. Let’s see, with transitions and the normal B.S. of an elementary school classroom, that all equals about three hours of instructional time. Plus thirty minutes for your Morning Meeting (That was all me people. You don’t want to see me sans my coffee or my a.m. circle time.) And lunch which was 45 minutes. And a “prep”. Another 45 minutes. And you’re up to about 5, 5 and a half hours of the seven hour instructional day. Mix in your Read Aloud, some testing, a dash of second grade drama and dismissal routines and it’s gone. The day is gone. I don’t know how it happens. It sounds like enough time. But it never was. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating for a longer day (although I was often heard saying in moments of insanity, “I need two more hours with them, just two more hours!”). I just missed teaching science and social studies.

I lobbied hard for making more time for these subjects. Pointed out that they were often the most engaging for our students. Discussed how we could creatively incorporate our learning in reading, writing and math INTO the science and social studies curriculum, thereby making necessary connections between these disciplines in the minds of our little friends.

Me: I just am so excited by this! I think we could do some really great small reading groups and then have each group prepare their subsequent learning for the class. It’s like we could work on non-fiction reading strategies throughout the year instead of strangely isolating them into one month.

Them (a.k.a. NOT my Super Colleagues):

Me: OOO! And I thought about all the different types of non-narrative writing we could do…I mean, observations, little reports, pamphlets. We could teach them to create a timeline with text. Maybe even work on some slide shows or power points on a given subject!


Me: I mean, then we could take out those random isolated non-fiction reading and writing units, which would give us more time and maybe we could actually get through everything. Ha! I’ve NEVER gotten through everything before! How cool would that be? I’m really excited about thinking about the ways we could make this work…I know it would take some time, but I think it would be really beneficial for the kids. If I’M this excited, think about how they’ll feel.

Them: *blink*

Me: Hello?

And so, my friends Science and Social Studies continued to get the shaft. Until I grew a pair and decided to just do what I knew was right.

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  • I had a pair once. You've inspired me to look for them. I'll find them….maybe they're in my purse… So great to hear a shout out for the forgotten subjects….Amen.

    January 26, 2010 at 3:26 pm
  • At my middle school where I work they rotate in science for a few weeks randomly in the middle of math. I'm with you–can't we teach them math IN science? Graphs? Measurement? Anyone? Anyone?

    And hello? Reading primary sources for social studies? Writing about history? Writing persuasive pieces to congress? Sigh. So many opportunities.

    I'm with you sister.

    January 26, 2010 at 3:26 pm
  • I live in Massachusetts, and was an assistant in the fifth-grade. Until last year, the fifth-graders had FOUR standardized tests: Science, Math, Language Arts, and Social Studies. But "No Child Left Behind" only cared about the Language Arts and Math scores, so which subjects do you think got shafted?

    My certification is in Social Studies, so I was in charge of that. At the beginning of each year, I'd have to fight to get more than two-days (forty-minutes per period) per week. Some years, I was lucky to get four days. Since it was rare to have an advocate for Science, two periods or less were given each week.

    When my son was in third-grade, all they did was Math, or at least that's how it seemed. In a six-hour day, with specialists, lunch, and recess, how much time is left if two-hours are devoted to Math?

    January 26, 2010 at 4:39 pm
  • Can I just say…Science specialist! Absolute godsend. Got one last year and I love her to bits. Poor old S&E just gets 40mins on a Wednesday afternoon. So sad. 🙁 Maybe I need to find my pair too…do new graduates come with a pair?

    January 26, 2010 at 4:39 pm
  • I know EXACTLY what you mean! Science and Social Studies always get less time. I have a 30 minute block to teach both Science and Social Studies. We have to alternate by unit. Lucky as you may have been to have made your own schedule, we didn't get that luxury this year. Our admin team made a school wide schedule that everyone had to adhere to. It was all with good reason, but it just sucks there isn't any leeway.

    I still feel they get the shaft! Especially Social Studies! But, they are still expected to know it all on the state test!

    January 26, 2010 at 7:41 pm
  • Yep, shafted pretty much everywhere. Here in FL, students are tested in math, reading and writing. So guess what gets crammed in if there's time?

    My husband (5th grade teacher) is very lucky, because his grade is departmentalized, so his kids get social studies and science instruction every day. Yes, part of the social studies block is subject area reading–but they get in the required reading time every day.

    January 27, 2010 at 12:57 am
  • And then the students get to high school, where, at least in Florida, science is tested. So the teachers have to cram 12 years of learning into 3.

    January 27, 2010 at 12:41 pm
  • As a 7th grade science teacher you must know that we just want to beat our heads against the wall when the little darlings reach our rooms with absolutely no freaking background knowledge at all about the subject…none, nada, nothing. Heck these kids can't even tell what their darn body parts are, or that grass is a plant. Amazing. It's like teaching rocks to think.

    January 27, 2010 at 12:41 pm
  • As a Jr High Science teacher, I really really REALLY notice that my kids haven't had concentrated science instruction until they get to me– and the science that they have had was so isolated from everything else I get blank looks when I ask them to do things like read, write, or graph! (because, you know, those things have nothing to do with science!)

    January 27, 2010 at 12:41 pm
  • It's terrible to be at the top isn't it? All the "if they only had taught them that, I could teach them this…"

    It's a constant struggle!

    January 28, 2010 at 3:21 am
  • I will tell you what Science and Social Studies did to me…They gave (and continue to give) me a great jumping off point for many of my art lessons in 3rd – 6th grade. I tend to stick with language arts starting points for 1st and 2nd grade art projects. I work in a district that so far is valuing how the fine arts can teach across the curriculum. Not every fine art teacher is thrilled with it, but if this is how I get to teach them art, I'm okay with it.

    February 7, 2010 at 1:53 pm
  • I agree with you wholeheartedly. I have an M.A. and a Ph.D. in history, and am currently preparing to become a high school teacher. I have read a lot about how NCLB has led to a diversion of resources from social studies to other subjects, but I am hoping that it is not so pronounced a problem at the secondary level.

    February 16, 2010 at 9:47 pm

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