2017 Teacher of the Year Al Ruliffson from J. Frank Hillyard Middle School used his grant money to purchase Virtual Reality Goggles for his 7th Grade History Class, here students take a virtual field trip to Little Bighorn National Battlefield and the New York City Tenement Museum.
Editorial written by Tracy Dussia, VCSS Tidewater Area Representative
“American Journalism is independent fact-based verified reporting that serves the public.” From the Virginian Pilot Op Ed by Tom Ferrick, Jr.
Why is it Important?
We, the people, must rely on the journalists and media to cover the stories that are relevant to our role as citizen. Citizens must be able to discover the truth, much as a lawyer must examine the evidence in a case in order to determine what the arguments are, and how to persuade others that their views of the evidence and facts are correct. Thus, without being able to discover the “truth” about an incident, citizens are left to pick and choose among alternate descriptions of an incident in order to draw conclusions about the relevance of that event. The citizen must ultimately be able to cast a vote for the candidate who best aligns with their version of the events and their relevance to the political process.
The relevance on the political process.
Because we live in a time in which information travels at lightning speed throughout the network and into your personal space, it is not necessarily examined for accuracy before it is released to the audience. Intentional or not, information can be framed in order to skew the meaning and the authenticity of an event. This is what the current discussion about “fake news” is all about.
For news organizations, whose primary task is to make money and gain ratings for the owners and publishers, the sensational, the opinion, and the manufactured information can take on the bias of the network or publishing house. Thus, since the public’s need to know is imbedded with both liberal and/or conservative bias, it is up to each consumer of news to determine what the truth of the matter is.
The problem lies in the vetting process. How much time does an ordinary citizen, who has personal, family, and business concerns to handle daily, spend on deciphering all of the information they chose to read or watch on any given day? The probability that they have little time to process and analyze the 24/7 news is a reality. In essence, by choosing the media source – such as Fox News or CNN- or a myriad of other media choices the informed citizen has already selected the media slant that they are most comfortable with, based on their own political ideology. This political thought may have been shaped while still at home with parents, or in high school with peers, or with the college they paid for and attended, or with the job that they work as a career. Regardless of how and when the ideas took root, one’s ideological preference is shown as the citizens vote on election day. Voters select the candidate that best represents their own perspective – whether liberal or conservative, and the process is then validated.
In this new world order, however, it is much more apparent that he who controls the media controls the message. If the candidate can capture the attention of the media, and use that to promote their own message and ideology, then the process can be hijacked – albeit unwillingly – to the popular whims of the journalists who are just trying to make headlines and get the scoop.
Today, more than ever, it is important for everyone to take the time to weigh the information they are being fed. Just like many citizens take time to eat a more healthy diet, news consumers must be able to determine which news is valid and which news is “junk food” – manufactured to be sweet to the ears and popular with the peers. Democracy is dependent upon a safe and reliable stream of information that has been fact-checked, verified, and that ultimately serves the public. It cannot be released based upon the whim of those who wish to maintain their own political popularity and feather their own nests. In my view, the public must insist on information that has been verified. It is important in light of the current state of the nation as well as on our nation’s future. This nation was founded on the principles of democracy – that the people rule, and that the elected officials serve them. Although all opinions are permitted in a nation that guards its first amendment rights as sacrosanct, fake news – news that has twisted the reality to match the goal of the publisher or the network- must be identified, and if necessary, retracted. It’s not too much to ask – especially since the future of the nation is at risk.
Meet Elizabeth Baxter, a third grade teacher at Centre Ridge Elementary School in Fairfax County. Centre Ridge Elementary School is a proud Title I School that serves a diverse and transient population of students and families in the suburbs of Washington, DC.
Students in Elizabeth’s class learn through Project Based Learning. Last year, students created “Welcome to Centreville” brochures for new families. Elizabeth worked collaborated with her team to develop rubrics to support student expectations.
The brochures helped new families access resources in the Centerville area. The brochures were placed in the Parent Resource Center at Centre Ridge Elementary School.
Spotlight written by Tanya Siwik, Assistant Principal, Cameron Elementary School
Written by Laura Delmore Lay, Central Virginia Representative
Now that cooler weather is here and our classrooms are in full swing, taking part in some indoor enrichment is much more appealing. Whether you plan on visiting one of these dynamic spaces on a field trip or simply for enhancing your own knowledge, please pass the word on to fellow colleagues and students. Central Virginia has so much to offer history lovers, and the excitement of the newest Smithsonian Institution inspired me to include some additional museums focusing on the African-American experience. Please note that this list is in no way exhaustive; please write to us (or post on our Facebook page) about educational resources near you.
As the campaign cycle continues, make the most of presidential election teachable moments by using the following resources and engaging your students in:
evaluating, analyzing, synthesizing, and drawing conclusions
Teaching about the presidential debates?
Then take a look at the following attached Social Education resources which we think you will find useful:
(Not so) Unprecedented: Media Analysis of the 2016 Presidential Race and Its Historical Precedents
Memorandum about the First Nixon-Kennedy Debate
Media Construction of Presidential Campaigns
Political Polling in Past and Present
Looking for perspectives that your students can more easily relate to?
Then visit Chase the Race at: http://www.chasetherace2016.com/#main-about where you will find student led interviews and other activities to get your students ready to participate.
Interested in having your students participate in a mock election?
Find out how at National Student/Parent Mock Election: http://nationalmockelection.org/. National student voting begins on October 24 and culminates on November 3,
Exploring more ways to teach about the election?
Then visit the Teaching for Democracy Alliance website where you will find recommended resources to help you define your student engagement strategy: http://www.teachingfordemocracy.org/resources.html
Try these resources that were recently published in Social Education.
The YES! National Student Writing Competition is an opportunity for middle school through university students to write about something meaningful, and a chance to write for a real audience—not just you, the teacher.
Each quarter, students are invited to read and write an essay on a selected YES! Magazine article. We divide contestants into four categories: middle school, high school, university, and Powerful Voice (for authors whose essays are powerful and passionate). Winning essays in each category are published on the YES! Magazine website and in our online education newsletter.
Get more information here.
End of an era for Petersburg. As a result of growing debts, the city will be closing it's museums effective October 1st. Since 1970, the city has operated a tourism department and historic museum sights in the downtown area. Petersburg tourism has brought thousands of visitors to the city annually, along with those visitors came revenue and growing interest in the city's 400 year long past. Since the 1970s, the city has operated as many as 9 historic sites and visitor centers. When tourism efforts were at their most, the city's museums consisted of Blandford Church, Centre Hill Mansion, Farmers Bank, McIlwaine House, Siege Museum, Trapezium House, and Battersea, along with two visitor centers. Within the last decade, the city relinquished ownership of three of those historic properties: Battersea, Trapezium House, and McIlwaine House, while continuing to operate the largest of the facilities: Siege Museum, Centre Hill Mansion, Blandford Church, and Farmers Bank. These have been great venues for promoting the city's history, touring, weddings, and filming. The city has chosen to eliminate museums and visitor services from the annual budget, in hopes of saving $300,000 by closing the historic sites. Anyone who has not seen these treasures from the past, we encourage you to visit before their closure. Siege Museum closed last November in hopes of restoring the building. Centre Hill, Blandford Church, and Farmers Bank are currently open. Centre Hill Mansion: 1 Centre Hill Court, Petersburg. Blandford Church, 111 Rochelle Lane, Petersburg. Farmers Bank, 19 Bollingbrook Street, Petersburg.
By Tracy Dussia TCC Adjunct Instructor for PLS 211-212.
Premise: The 2016 election on November 8 2016 is what I call the “Trifecta Political Game.” Voters will determine not only the President and Vice-President for the next four years, but also 34 Senators, the entire House of Representatives, and numerous State and Local officials from Governors to judges, et al. Each branch of the government will be affected by the outcome of this contest. The president must nominate a justice to the Supreme Court, appoint his entire Cabinet, every Ambassador to every nation, and that is just the tip of the iceberg of powers and duties. I hesitate to call it a race, since that reminds me of a combination of NASCAR, the Triple Crown, and so many other competitions in which the fastest, if not the most talented participant wins. And although the Electoral College legitimizes the candidate with 270+ electoral votes, this process is the embodiment of the democratic process in the United States. At all levels, from Kindergarten to College and beyond, the public has weighed, measured, and surely at times doubted the candidates. And the victor is then given the unimaginable responsibility of leading our nation into the future. It has always been thus. But in our nation’s classrooms this particular year will surely be the foundation for many future voters and their understanding of the electoral process. That is the domain of the social studies teachers. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a novice there are some major themes that ought to be included in a unit on teaching about presidential campaigns, the voters themselves, and the factors that contribute to this historic decision. I’ll propose my favorite outline, and then let you decide which parts you have the time to include in your own lesson.
Step One: Design your Unit
Each of us has our own state and local curriculum. We also can use the Common Core. Whatever your teaching goals and objectives may be, some essentials must be included in your Election Unit. My concept has always been the “Candidate School.” Model. In a candidate school, the students put themselves into the shoes of the individual seeking nomination and election. The students should take part in as many of the election steps as they can.
Start with Step 1 – Announcing your candidacy. Candidates must decide why they think they could handle the job. Having an impressive resume helps. In 2016, student groups can “vet” the candidates, and compare their resumes. Candidates must also have a Vision for the Future.
Step 2 – After determining that you have sufficient name recognition, the candidate must seek
the endorsement of the party. In our two party system that is primarily the Democratic or
Republican Party. Many independents have attempted to capture the White House on their own.
That topic of the role of third party candidates is an important subject that can be discussed as
appropriate. The role of the party is to publicize the candidate and endorse them by helping to
nominate them via the primaries and caucuses. Students, especially the Seniors ready to step
onto the political stage, have watched this occur over the last 12 months. It has been quite a
spectacle, but at this point the field has been winnowed down, and the frontrunners and their vice
presidential pics are heavily into the process.
Step 3 – Get on the Ballot. The student must understand that the race for the white house is
actually a set of 50 separate elections that will ultimately culminate in the indirect election of the
President by the Electoral College. The constitution gives the states the power to conduct
elections. That includes setting up the Congressional Districts, the local precincts, the voter
registration requirements and deadlines, and the more recently contested requirement that voters
must present a “valid” ID in order to vote. Other topics in this step might include issues such as
restoration of voting rights to felons after incarceration ends, and a myriad of voting
irregularities that plagued past elections. The 2000 election is an important case in point. The
states count their ballots as well. So guaranteeing that voting as a civil right is protected by the
states comes under the purview of the national courts, in some instances. Assign how the voting
rights act impacts the election to those students who want to do some advanced research.
Step 4 – Fundraising. This is tons of fun to study. Where does the money come from? Do
candidates raise money by holding rallies? How do the candidates pay for all those slick TV
ads, or run their websites, or pay for their campaign managers, local offices and coordinate their
volunteers? Many websites track this process. My unit title for this is “Show me the Money!!”
Step 5 – Research the Issues. This ought to be an essential component of any electoral lesson.
Use age-appropriate resources to help students study the issues that most interest them wherever
they live, and for whatever ideology they have already embraced. Hot topics in 2016 are guns,
immigration, terrorism, and gender issues. I would make a list of “go to” sites, as well as “no
go” sites for the students. The very bravest teachers will allow students to create their own
political ads. They should be judged on their content as well as style. Include Political Cartoons
to spice up the lesson and make learning fun.
Step 6 – Analyze the Polls. Students should be introduced to the process of collecting people’s
opinions and then being able to tell how people might vote, based on their political values. Once
again, this must be age-appropriate, so don’t use the same sites for elementary students as you
use for the high school cohort.
Step 7 – Get out the Vote. Students often relate to this, as they have observed the ads, the
signage, and listened to the televised debates between the two frontrunners. Most have visited
the candidates official websites (or they should before the unit is done) as well as many other
venues that try to attract the Youth Vote. I am sure that Stephen Colbert or SNL skits are
tempting to watch for adults as well as students. Caution: Be sure the students understand that
Campaigning is not a game, and that the outcome has consequences for the nation. Each party
makes every effort to contact the voter to be sure they remember to vote for their candidate!
Step 8 – Promote the Vote! The most effective teaching tool in this unit is to conduct a
schoolwide mock election. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this activity. While the
students are in high school, they will get only ONE chance to take part in this event. Whether
students are freshmen and just getting introduced to the school climate, or Seniors who have
been around for four years, each class can benefit from the public service announcements, signs,
and hype that surrounds a student led school-wide activity. Their votes matter – not just in the
schools but in the community. It doesn’t take much class time to raise awareness and get
students to volunteer to take part. Stickers go a long way toward sending a signal to young
citizens that I Voted means something. Every vote counts. And the students have so much
creative talent just waiting to be put to use. Our local registrar is a wonderful resource, and they
provide onsite voter registration for the actual election and materials for the school mock election
This lesson can be so dynamic. I will list some sites I always use that can be helpful, but as with
any written document, the minute a list gets published it becomes relatively obsolete. So –
custom design your lesson to your own classrooms, your own students and your own
communities. You will be astonished – and proud – of the work that our young citizens can
produce – if only they are given the essential How To lesson. And don’t forget to call your local
paper and TV station, for even more excitement. Let’s Rock the Vote in Virginia – and then
watch as the returns pour in. To the Future!!
Resources for teachers and students:
http://www.youthleadership.net/ includes lesson plans and online mock election directions
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/ includes polls and data info
http://www.270towin.com/ includes interactive map and previous electoral results
http://www.followthemoney.org/ helpful to research how money enters the process
http://www.census.gov/ helpful for Quickfacts and demographics by Congressional District
Your own local and national broadcast news sources, including PBS
Your own State Board of Election helpful for access to election results from past elections.
Each of the candidates’ websites
Written by Tracy Dussia
2016 is the year of Virginia’s latest achievement on the national scale. No, I am not talking about the Presidential Election. A different election is more prominent for Social Studies Teachers. For in 2016 India Meissel was elected to be the Vice President of the National Council for the Social Studies. This is just the most recent accomplishment that India can place on her achievement belt. And this is where I want our story to end. But first, we should visit the place she began – in Suffolk, Virginia.
India’s parents (Dr. and Mrs. Sharpe) were always prominent members of the Suffolk Community. She grew up in Portsmouth, Virginia, but moved to the “country” up off route 17. India attended Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, (my alma mater) graduating in l986. And this is how we first met. I was already teaching at Churchland High School and was the department chair for social studies, so she was assigned to me as a “student teacher”. I was deeply involved in celebrating the Bicentennial of the Constitution in l987 – and naturally India volunteered to help sponsor our regional meetings. The Jefferson Meeting on the Constitution was our first joint endeavor, but it certainly would not be our last. She was definitely a fast learner. But she took to heart the not so subtle suggestion that becoming a professional educator involved participation in both the VCSS and NCSS. It was part of the total package. From that point, she was fully engaged in making a difference. She earned her MS in Curriculum and Instruction/ Education from ODU in 1996.
India’s career took off, and before long she landed a job at Lakeland High School. Her strongpoint was US History, but she also knew how to teach “just about anything” they offered her. She had such natural talent as an educator as well as a parent. She taught AP as well as the what we lovingly call the “regular” classes. Soon, India was participating in state conferences and workshops. Her love of history also advanced her working with Colonial Williamsburg, becoming a Master Teacher in their Idea of American program. Our professional relationship continued throughout the decades, as I was elected to the VCSS presidency in 1990 and then to the NCSS Board of Directors in l993. India was always supportive, and then ultimately she was elected to be the VCSS Teacher of the Year in 2006 and then the NCSS Teacher of the Year.
India’s star was shining brightly as she was then elected to be a member of the NCSS Board of Directors in 2010. The NCSS represents nearly 30,000 K-College teachers. This is where the academics and educators share lessons and pedagogy. Her passion for teaching clearly landed her a place on this prestigious national stage. Now, after winning this most recent election, India’s future contributions to the NCSS will be solidified. India will serve a three year sequence of national leadership: First as President-Elect, then as Vice-President and finally as President of the NCSS. Along the way she has led the organization by serving on the planning committees of the annual National Conference of NCSS members. She is currently serving as the Conference Co-Chair of the NCSS Conference to be held in Washington D.C. in 2016.
The truth is that a simple salute is insufficient to thank India for devoting her life to the Social Studies Profession. Her husband Howard and her daughter Austin have shared this role as they supported every late night she spent, every meeting she attended, and every hurdle that is inevitably placed upon a teacher. India worked not only at the high school, but also at the college level. India taught some classes at Paul D. Camp Community College. I frankly don’t know how she was able to accomplish so much and remain, as always, poised and approachable as she is today. In this Spotlight, I want to share what I have learned about professional teachers simply by having the privilege of working with her all these years.
Three decades is a long time. For those of you who are just starting your career, she should stand as a model for professional excellence. And for those of us who are in our reflective sunset, I want to publicly acclaim that as long as we hold the shared goal of educating young people about our national history and its governance, teachers like India Meissel should provide a standard of excellence and inspiration to us all. You go girl! td
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