What Else Can a Social Studies Teacher Do?

A colleague and I were recently talking about our “Plan B’s” if we ever decided to leave teaching and got into a discussion about the types of jobs for which social studies teachers are qualified.  I have thought about leaving teaching for the past two years, and in the process of looking for jobs (and even applying for some of them), I’ve reached some interesting conclusions.

1. Just because I’ve learned a lot and can teach courses on global issues, politics, history, etc., not having “the right degree” has been a stumbling block.  Due to the nature of my interests, most of the jobs I’ve looked into require an advanced degree in something to the effect of international relations, political science, social science, international studies or a related field.  My Master’s Degree is in Curriculum and Instruction with a Professional Development emphasis, which means that of the 36 credits, 12 are in education and 24 are in history.  Since then I’ve taken courses in history and politics at the local university.  The problem is that when HR staff see “Master’s Degree is in Curriculum and Instruction with a Professional Development emphasis,” it does not give them the whole picture.  To try and rectify that, I’ve decided to enroll in the International Politics and Practice Capstone Certificate program at UW-Madison.

2. Along those lines, while I started this blog as a place for me to write down my thoughts on what I read, I’ve since also thought about using it as a sort of e-portfolio for possible employers.  I would like to think that I can write intelligently about global issues, domestic and foreign policy, social media, etc., even though I don’t have a degree specifically in those areas.  I’ve also tried using my Twitter feed for the same purpose.  Perhaps sharing interesting articles and brief thoughts on them will lead somebody to notice that even though I’m “just a teacher,” I still follow developments in the above areas.

3. Teachers need to show possible employers that we are more than babysitters who know a thing or two about some subjects.  Many of us belong to professional organizations so we can read journals and articles about the latest research, developments, and trends.  For example, I belong to the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the American Political Science Association.  Teachers can also conduct their own research (my blog for example) and work diligently to become masters of their content.  We work under extreme pressure and in a stressful environment while simultaneously providing guidance to both students and new teachers.  We take pride in our work and achievements, and even more so when it comes to our students.  Educators speak and write clearly and effectively for a variety of audiences; if we do not, it makes the learning process difficult.  We enjoy sharing what we know, but we also know how to ask the right questions so that our students get to a deeper understanding of the content.  Planning is inherent in the job, but teachers also know how to “go with the flow” if they see that it could lead to beneficial outcomes.  Finally, social studies teachers in particular are quite adept at identifying change and continuity over time, comparing and contrasting ideas, and seeing various viewpoints through different lenses.

4. Teaching a variety of courses has led me to be interested in many topics, which can be burdensome when looking for jobs.  Right now I teach US history, US government and politics, US foreign policy, and a world studies course.  In the past, however, I’ve also taught European history courses, world history courses, and even a course on ancient civilizations. (If you click on the “About” page, you can see a list of the courses I’ve taught on my CV).  Teaching at the secondary level requires teachers to become content specialists, which means I’ve learned a considerable amount during the past twelve years.  Obviously, I became a social studies teacher because I really enjoy learning about and discussing history and politics.  The problem is that for me, I can’t get enough, and I always want to know as much as possible.  As such, I’m interested in jobs in a variety of areas- domestic and foreign policy, communication, global issues, and international organizations and NGO’s.  Having a wide variety of interests can be problematic, however, when trying to narrow down a job search.

To close, I leave you with a request (and I’m really putting myself out there with this, but I’ve got to try it).  If you, or someone you know, is looking to hire a professional who is passionate about politics, policy, and social media and wants to use that energy to make a difference in the world, please feel free to contact me.

Thanks for reading.


2 thoughts on “What Else Can a Social Studies Teacher Do?

  1. Truth is European as a large surplus of teachers, far too many teachers chasing for too few teaching jobs. Yet the universities still keep churning out ever more new teachers and no one stops this waste and misery?

    • Hi Tom,

      Thanks for reading my blog. We have a similar situation here in the US. Part of the problem is due to the current recession. Another reason for an excess of trained teachers without jobs is due to lack of funding for school districts. Schools cannot hire people if they do not have the money to do so.


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