Friday, January 17, 2020

The Wagon Has Circled Back

In the fall of 2018, I started my current position as a special education teacher after 11 years of teaching social studies (US History and Government) and a couple of years of other positions as a tech coach, a middle school dean, and a PE teacher.  Learning the ropes of teaching special education was a transition for sure, but at least it was made easier by co-teaching World History and US History.  Last spring, I was approached by my supervisor and asked if I would be interested in co-teaching economics, something that I had mentioned to him previously that I had enjoyed immensely but had never had the opportunity to teach.  Naturally, when asked, I accepted the offer.  

When I was in college, I was one of the lucky ones that declared a major on day one and, for the most part, stuck with it through my five years.  I originally declared secondary education biology as my major with a chemistry minor but changed my mind and switched to social studies as a major and physical education and health as my minor.  

The requirements for the social studies major were a minimum of two classes in history, geography, government and politics, and economics.  I had always loved history, so I most certainly knew that I would be taking more than the minimum number of history classes.  However, I didn't want to take six history classes, I wanted to have a little more variety in my classes to fulfill the requirements. 

As I began to take my required courses in the first couple of years of college, these classes began to shape my passions in social studies.  History was already established and I enrolled in several, including US History survey courses, Western civilization, and a really interesting course titled The Third World, a course that looked at the history of imperialism, colonialism, and the impact of each on various ethnic groups around the world.  I took the minimum courses for geography (physical and human geography) and political science (introduction to political science and American government); while I enjoyed these classes, they really didn't spark a passion similar to what I had for history and what I discovered, a passion for economics. 

Image courtesy of https://www.nmu.edu/newlogo/
I took an economics survey class as an elective when I was a senior in high school.  It was in the second half of the year and while I did well in the class and learned a lot, it is not something that I necessarily look back upon and remember a ton about; I was in full-on senioritis mode.  However, my Economics 101 class that I took at Northern Michigan University in the Fall of 2002 really inspired me to become more of a student of economics. 

Maybe it was because the economy was recovering from a recent downturn and it was in the news frequently at the time.  Maybe it was because my professor, Dr. Ferrarini, was a master at explaining economic concepts and did more than simply lecture.  Maybe it was because I had always loved economics but didn't know it.  Whatever the case, that class over 17 years ago really lit a fire under me.

I enrolled the following semester in American Economic History (it did tie back to history, my original passion), which was a survey of United States history with a focus on economics.  For example, rather than analyzing the Civil War by looking at battles, American Economic History looked at the Civil War in terms of money spent by both sides, the impact of government spending and monetary policy on the economy, and how common citizens fared economically during the war.  It was an incredible class and I learned so much (same professor as my Economics 101 class).  I also took my first online course, Macroeconomics (with the same professor, she was one of the best teachers that I ever had), to fulfill my social studies requirements. 

The only reason that I did not take her Microeconomics class was because I did not need a full-time schedule in the semester before student teaching, choosing instead to work full time while finishing up seven credits in social studies education theory, advanced weight lifting, and treatment and care of injuries (the latter two classes to satisfy requirements for my minor). 

When I got my first teaching job, I informed the principal of the school that I was interested in teaching economics.  At the time, economics was not a required class and the school did not offer it.  He encouraged me to submit syllabi for AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics and offer the class as an elective.  Unfortunately, the requisite number of students to create the courses could never be filled as there simply wasn't enough interest from students.  I tried every year for about eight years, to no avail. 

Fast forward to my current teaching position.  Economics is now a required course for graduation.  While a lot of the groundwork for the scope, sequence, and pacing for the course was laid out before my hiring, there are still some bugs to work out.  Some teachers had never taught economics before either and never really took many courses in economics so they are learning the ropes not just in pacing but in content.  Because it is a new class and because the school wants to ensure that students are successful, sections of economics with a co-teacher were created, hence why I am now able to teach economics along with two of my colleagues. 

One of my colleagues that I teach with is an economist by trade, so he is brilliant in economic content.  I have a strong economics background and have a box full of tools in technology, differentiation methods, and ways to reach kids with special needs.  I feel that we are a great team and we are able to share what we are creating with our colleagues in the school.  I have implemented The Fast & The Curious Eduprotocol with Quizizz to introduce and rep economic terminology.  I use Pear Deck to create presentations that students not only consume in class, but they are creating as well, as I use Pear Deck's Drawing slides to have students create demand, supply, and equilibrium curves and graphs during class discussions.  For review, I use Screencastify or Camtasia to record my Pear Deck presentations, voice them over, and ship out the results to YouTube to share with students in Google Classroom as a review or for a way to catch up if a student is absent from class.  Students have also been given the opportunity to use Flipgrid on various concepts, such as a discussion on whether Bitcoin is truly a form of money based on the properties of money.  My colleagues and I are planning to try some other thing as well; I am especially interested in trying the Iron Chef Eduprotocol, hyperdocs, and student screencasting with economic concepts. 

My love of economics was sparked nearly two decades ago.  Not having the opportunity to teach economics did not diminish my passion for the subject.  In fact, I tried to incorporate as many economic concepts and discussions as I could into my content, regardless of the class that  I was teaching for the last 15 years.  I am so happy that the proverbial wagon has circled back to me, allowing me to jump on and not just ride shotgun, but to hold the reins and steer the horses too!  If you are an economics teacher, I would love to hear about some ways that you make this fascinating subject exciting for your students.  Share out your thoughts on social media! I look forward to collaborating! 

Until next time...


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