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Web letter by Sharon Braun: Hard-working teachers tackle ever-expanding curriculum

I am employed in one of the greatest professions ever because I have the opportunity to work with kids every day. However, in the last few years it is hard to be proud of my job, considering everything the media, parents and the government have to say about teachers. I thought I would share what topics I am expected to cover in my seventh grade social studies class. (I also teach math, religion, a bullying curriculum, an enrichment class and study skills.) From all of these topics, on the written portion of the ISTEP+ test, very specific questions will be asked about four or five of these topics. Maybe this will help you realize how hit or miss test results can be.

I actually left a few standards out and many have been simplified. Keep in mind the Eastern Hemisphere is comprised of more than 100 countries and seventh grade students are 12 to 13 years old.

•Development of early agricultural river valley civilizations

•Achievements of ancient Egypt in art, architecture, religion, government and development of concept of theocracy

•The development of written language

•Historical origins, central beliefs and spread of major religions

•Development of sub-Saharan civilizations in Africa, especially political and trading centers

•Importance of the early trade routes in Mediterranean, southern Asia and China

•Influence of Muslim civilization on growth of cities, trade routes, political organizations, scientific and cultural contributions

•Describe institution of slavery in its various forms in Africa, Asia and Southwest Pacific

•Trace rise, spread and influence of the Mongols

•Development and achievements of Chinese dynasties regarding political institutions, agriculture, environment, technology, arts and commerce

•Show how Japan became independent of earlier Chinese influence

•Describe worldwide voyages of exploration and discovery

•Reasons for European colonization in the Eastern Hemisphere

•Response of indigenous people in Eastern Hemisphere to colonization

•Describe Japanese imperial period including involvement in World War II

•Identify and describe historical events in Mideast since end of WWII

•Describe effect of industrialization, urbanization and globalization in five different countries

•Identify and describe recent conflicts and political issues between nations or cultural groups

•Draw on visual, literary and musical sources to describe development and transmission of culture over time

•Analyze cause-and-effect relationships and multiple causation in the role of individuals, beliefs and chance in history

•Compare perspectives of history of Eastern Hemisphere using fiction and nonfiction accounts

•Examine different routes to independence from colonial rule by countries in Eastern Hemisphere

•Compare historical and contemporary governments in five specific countries

•Describe how major forms of governments protect or have protected citizens’ civil and human rights

•Identify function of international organizations in Eastern Hemisphere

•Define and compare citizenship and citizens’ role in countries in Eastern Hemisphere

•Identify and locate countries of Eastern Hemisphere

•Locate capital cities of Eastern Hemisphere using latitude, longitude, GPS and GIS

•Use historical maps to identify changes in Eastern Hemisphere over time

•Identify and describe major physical characteristics of Eastern Hemisphere

•Explain how ocean currents and wind influence climate and how they are adapted through industry, agriculture and housing

•Compare climate regions of Eastern Hemisphere and explain why they differ

•Give examples and describe formation of important river deltas, mountains and bodies of water in Eastern Hemisphere

•Describe ecosystems of Africa’s desert, Asia’s mountain regions and coral reefs of Australia

•Compare and contrast the distribution of natural resources in Eastern Hemisphere

•Describe limits climate and land place on land or people in Eastern Hemisphere

•Identify and explain importance of early cultural hearths in Nile River Valley, Mesopotamia, Indus River Valley and the Huang River Valley

•Identify current trends and patterns of rural and urban population distribution in Eastern Hemisphere

•Define ethnocentrism and show how it affected relationships between colonists in Kenya and Australia

•Identify current issues and developments related to environment in Eastern Hemisphere

•Give examples of trade between Eastern Hemisphere countries and how voluntary trade benefits countries and raises the standard of living

•Identify economic connections between local community and Eastern Hemisphere

•Illustrate how international trade requires a system for exchanging currency between nations

•Trace development and change over time of the economic systems of cultures, societies and nations of Eastern Hemisphere

•Explain how banks and other financial institutions use savings deposit to help borrowers and investors

•Compare and contrast standard of living of Eastern Hemisphere using gross domestic product per capita as an indicator

•Describe how people can increase individual human capital

•Identify ways that societies deal with helpful spillover (education) or harmful spillover (pollution)

•Explain how saving and investing help increase productivity and economic growth and how individual savings can grow through regular saving and power of compound interest.

Imagine trying to teach all of these elements in such a way that students understand and remember the information well enough to form a written response to a short-answer question.

Yes, there are some bad teachers. Yes, there are some lazy teachers. Mostly, there are a lot of exhausted teachers who have multiple, new, education-saving programs and plans thrown at them yearly, as well as additional curriculum they are responsible for teaching all students in all classrooms. Please realize most teachers, myself included, are working hard and doing the best we can in a rapid-cycle changing landscape.