What makes the first week of the school year challenging?

When I first thought of this question, my intention was to figure out how geography teachers, specifically, work through the difficult task of getting students up to “geographic speed”. I was hopeful that at least a few of the chat participants were locked into my line of thinking and I wasn’t disappointed. Right off the bat there were more than a few participants who tweeted as if they were inside my head (a peculiar experience indeed…).

#worldgeochat veteran @caranowou started things off with his perspective from high school when he tweeted:

I know many teachers who lament that most of the first month of school is often taken up with trying to figure out what basic skills their students have. Then they end up reviewing basic geographic jargon and language so they can get to the good stuff (or as Ken said, to ‘dig in’). It’s difficult when half the class is looking at you not knowing the difference between latitude and longitude…a sentiment that was echoed by @MrHistory123, a relative newcomer to the chat, with his take:

Geography, just like and discipline, has a language that is essential for understanding. These building blocks can not be ignored or glossed over, even in the higher grades. I was left with a sense of foreboding that this issue will not go away anytime soon.

On the flip side of that same coin, @ecasey77 tweeted a valid challenge from almost the exact opposite perspective:

After going back and reviewing the chat archives I came to conclusion that geography teachers, just like all teachers, have to know how to strike that perfect balance of knowing how to quickly review basic terms and skills while at the same time not spending too much time doing so or risk the catastrophe of losing an entire class to boredom. It’s why teachers are professionals. It’s why we are good at our craft. Being able to recognize, early on, which students need extra support and how to hook the entire class with the bug of curiosity is why professional teachers are artists. Painting elaborate and intricate webs of learning within the confines of tight schedules (man I wish I could go to the bathroom once during the school day…) and the broad scope of different abled learners within any given class. This shit ain’t easy.

One after another in the chat, everyone seemed to echo some variation of the challenge of needing to know who knows what combined with how fast to dig into more complicated and difficult content.

One participant, @LFU_MissCox, brought up a different challenge that I thought worth mentioning.

There is the challenge that connected teachers who are involved in cutting edge pedagogy like PBL, have to weigh from the first moment students walk into the classroom.  When and how to introduce that new learning culture to students. It can be overwhelming to both students and teacher alike.@LFU_MissCox‘s thought about writing and critical thinking skills, I thought, could be addressed with some sort of interdisciplinary approach with English, Science, Math, et al. As the course that is the nexus of all subjects combined into one, we geography teachers need to think about reaching out more to other disciplines and asking how we can incorporate critical thinking skills and writing skills in their classes. Maybe we have to use more of their projects, activities, and subject matter in the scope of our curriculum… I don’t know what the answer is but I feel that we have an obligation since it is our (my) belief that geography is where all subjects come together to answer the truly difficult questions of our time…

Geography is complicated.

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