Category Archives: Uncategorized

Remove the Poison

Years ago, when my daughter was a high school volleyball coach, she would occasionally vent to me during a season she was struggling with a few mean girls (and their mean parents). When visiting with a former volleyball coach about this (who, by the way, had several winning seasons throughout her coaching career), this former, highly-respected volleyball coach looked at me and without hesitation, made an audacious statement…

“Sometimes you just need to remove the poison.” 

Whoa. 😲 Okay.

This advice can be applied to many areas of life. Like relationships for starters! If a relationship becomes toxic, then I guess it is time to remove the poison. 

My relationship with Twitter had become just that…poisonous! 

When I first started ‘dating’ Twitter, I loved the relationship we developed. I found so much useful information there, and I met some amazing people because of Twitter. I loved Twitter so much that I wrote a blog titled Oh, The People You’ll Meet If Only You’ll Tweet. I had a two-way loving relationship going on with Twitter. It loved me and I loved it back. (Can you sense a little addiction here???). 

Not so much anymore. In my humble opinion, Twitter has changed over the past few years…for the worse. It’s not the positive, fun-loving, let’s-hang-out-together relationship it used to be. 

There can be some hilarious tweets such as this one (which my husband shared with me):

BUT…I have found too many tweets to be too negative, too cruel, too judgmental, too…well, poisonous!  The venomous things people say to others is unacceptable in my little world. The attitude of “you accept my opinion or I’ll come hunt you down and hurt you” has become too much for me.

Call me too sensitive, that’s fine. Some may think I look through rose colored glasses, that’s fine too. I will never stop hoping and praying for people (including myself) to love one another, to have empathy for one another, and to have a listening ear of others’ thoughts and opinions. Listening doesn’t mean we have to agree and accept those thoughts and opinions; it just means listen, hear them out, have an open mind, and then make our decision. Again, in my opinion, Twitter doesn’t listen, and it has become ridiculously judgmental! 

A friend of mine had this on his Facebook page and it is so true…

We know so little about others. We know so little about what battles others are fighting. We know so little!! Stop judging, Twitter peeps! Just because we don’t agree with someone (which is our right) doesn’t mean we have the right to be cruel! Goodness…I don’t always agree with what my adult children choose to do (and they don’t always agree with me either)!

BUT, I still love them regardless, and I know they love me!

When my relationships become toxic, as it had with Twitter, then I guess it was time to remove the poison. 

I deleted my Twitter account. 

Stay Calm & Be Kind!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V. 

Carter’s 5+1 Angelversary

As we remember and celebrate Carter this year, auntie Lori shares…

Hey Carter,

So Sonya asked me to write the 5+1 Carter Blog for this year’s anniversary.  Yes…she’s poking fun a bit at my mental math that is often done out loud…in reality, I just want to make sure everyone can follow 😊 6 years have gone by…that’s crazy.  We think about you often especially when walking Oscar and I see the two red cardinals down on the walking path.  I tell myself it’s you and Grandma Betty…Oscar tells himself he’d like you to be squirrels down on the ground instead. 

Updates – well, as you likely know, Katie is getting married!  Can you believe it?  She and Belle (and Lucas and PJ) live up in the cities by me now.  I was certainly happy to have Lucas and PJ up here willing to help me install a basketball hoop in our backyard…Belle and Tiffy supervised the dogs and ordered the pizza.  Katie is going to be student teaching this fall and Belle is attending school to be a chiropractor.  Tori moved into her apartment in Brookings and has an internship – yes, an internship at a real Architecture firm…talk about becoming a grown-up!  Tori enjoys going to the lake up north with Kyle  – he works in Olivia – he’s an adult now too it seems.  It makes me wonder what you’d be up to…just finishing your second year of college too.  Speaking of college, Sam graduated and got a real job and bought a house!  Cody continues to drive truck and help farm and Dylan seems to really enjoy working at Bend Rite.  Jackson finished his “first” year of college but is super smart like me (😊) so is already ½ done…he, too, has an internship this summer…man I’m starting to feel old!  Time seems to fly by.  

The “Littles” aren’t so little anymore.  Wyatt is going to be a SENIOR this fall and still a beast on the ice. He went to prom this year – cleans up pretty good when he wants to.  Jonah and Tiffy will be juniors – both still playing LOTS of sports.  In fact, Jonah and Wyatt played golf together this spring on the high school team.  Jonah plays football and basketball as well – don’t tell him, but he’s a pretty good athlete.  COVID kind of put a crimp in fall sports this past year so Tiff ended up doing cross country since volleyball was delayed – dude, I literally had to push her out of the car the first day!  She ended up loving it – who knew (I mean clearly I knew, but what do parents know).  She also did volleyball, basketball (went to state and actually played against Marshall – that was fun!), and then decided on track this spring.  Oh…and they both turned 16 and got their licenses this year – yikes!  Baby size JR, the littlest little, is no longer the littlest.  He is going into the 8th grade and is one exceptional athlete in football, basketball, and baseball.  He still gets to play the “baby” card as he is the youngest even if he’s not the littlest. Needless to say, they are living their lives to the fullest, and I like to give you the credit for that!

As for the adults…we’re all doing well and really can’t complain.  We have our health and some great kids to keep us busy and the memories of you to keep a smile on our faces. We also have our dogs – lots of them.  Oscar loves it…he has lots of “cousins” to play with wherever we go.

It’s almost time for the annual week at the lake…remember when you talked Grandma and Grandpa into going twice that year?  You always were such a stinker. Tonight, while we all may be in different places, we will be enjoying steak sandwiches and Silver Oak cabernet in your honor.  We miss you dearly and hope you are keeping everyone entertained up there…playing ball and telling jokes.  Until we meet again, “Stay Awesome!”

Stay Calm & Stay Awesome!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

“That Sounds Fun” Book Talk

Say YES to fun! That’s what Annie F. Downs, author of That Sounds Fun, strongly recommends we do. I am all in to this recommendation!!! 🙋 I’ve never met this gal, but I would LOVE to hang out with her for a day or two. I know for sure we would be friends.

How did I find out about this book? I listened to Adam Weber’s podcast when he interviewed Annie. He mentioned Annie’s book in Episode 116 so I called our local library to see if they had the book. We are small town America, so they had to put a hold on it from a distant library who did have it. Three weeks later I picked it up. I just finished the book and it is fabulous. I told my hubby it was so good, I want my own copy. Yep…buying it!

Annie has a podcast called That Sounds Fun. She explains in her book how that title came to be. On page 55, Annie tells of her being a huge fan of author Ted Dekker. Through a good friend who knew Ted, Annie had the opportunity to record an interview with Ted. Annie asked her friend what she wanted her to do with the audio. Her friend asked her “have you ever thought about starting a podcast?” Annie’s answer, and I quote: “And hand to heaven, I responded, ‘That sounds fun.” The podcast title and the book title were born.

At the end of her podcasts, Annie will ask her listeners what sounds fun to them. She has PAGES of ideas in her book from her guests and her listeners. If you are struggling for something fun to do…look at just those pages. As I was looking at many of these pages in her book, the one that stuck out to me is from John…what sounds fun to him is Front porch swing talks. John is speaking my love language. I have a porch swing out front AND out back! And a sign that asks others to come sit with me on my porch swing where the friendship is free.

I thought about my friend, colleague, and blogging partner when I read page 79. Sonya (Dr. V. to all of you), lost her nephew and blogs about it each year on Carter’s home-to-heaven anniversary (look for this blog at the end of June). Her family continues to celebrate Carter in FUN ways. Annie writes “To me, making strong fun memories are some of the best ways to partner with the pain you feel and give it purpose. Fun is never meant to replace pain….. But fun can walk alongside it.” So, I sent Sonya a text message with a snap picture of page 79. Today as I write, I am thinking of you, Dr. V., and ALL your family as you near the anniversary date of Carter going home to heaven. Love you all! ❤

 As I get older and realize life is a little wonky at times, I get a feeling that is hard to describe. I could never put my finger on this feeling. Well, I got my answer from this book. I yearn for Eden. I ache for the time when life was simple. No hatred. No disease. No sadness. No loss. No shame. Just love! Perfection. I want the time BEFORE Adam and Eve screwed it up. 😉

Eden. Yes, Annie, that’s it. I can now put my finger on that indescribable feeling I’ve had for years. I long for Eden.

Until then, Annie…I plan to have fun because as you share in your book on page 74, “Most anything CAN be fun. It just depends on us.”

Amen, Annie! Amen. Thank you for such a touching book. I encourage all of our blog readers to read it!

Stay Calm & Have Fun!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V.   

A Memory of My Dad

I am a member of Patsy Clairmont’s private Facebook group called Writerly Intentions. Today she asked us to write a memory we have had of our father or father figure. Below is the brief story I shared…

My dad, Edward Carl Wussow, was electrocuted on New Year’s Eve in 1974 when I was a 9th grader in high school. Seventy two hundred (7200) volts of electricity entered his body when the tip of his middle finger on his left hand barely brushed over the substation hot wire, passed through his heart between beats, then exploded out his right arm, fingers, knee, and foot.

The miracle…he lived to tell about it. The miracle…the electricity passed through his body BETWEEN heart beats.

My dad endured indescribable pain, and yet he persevered! He survived! Thank goodness my dad was a man who had a strong will to live because he needed an overdose of that will during those years of his recovery.

I watched him fight for healing with all the courage and strength he could muster up. The doctors told him he would only live for about five years after that electrocution because of the toll it took on him. Well guess what? That accident happened to my dad when he was 45 years old. He lived until he was 85!

My dad…the strongest, bravest, most courageous man I have ever known. (Thank you, Jesus 🙏🏼 and St. Paul Ramsey Hospital Burn Unit in St. Paul Minnesota for saving my dad!) ❤️

Dad…I know, without a doubt, you are enjoying Father’s Day in Heaven. I have peace knowing I will see you again someday. Until then, please know how much I love you and miss you!

Patsy asked us, now we ask you: Please share in the comments below a memory you have had of your father or father figure.

Stay Calm & Happy Father’s Day, Dads!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

We Are Treasured

“…the LORD your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.” ~Deuteronomy 7:6 (NLT)

Sometimes treasures are buried deep down just waiting for us to excitedly uncover them. Other times, treasures are in plain sight. Treasures like:

A rainbow over the ocean…

Or, a sunset on the Minnesota prairie…

Or, a sundog in winter…

OR…a child’s Vacation Bible School music program finale. 🎶💝

I got goosebumps listening to my grandson and all the other children sing about being “forgiven and chosen forever, I am a treasure.” The message in that song was exactly what this grandma’s heart needed. A reminder for me, and all of us, that we ARE who God says we are.

Deuteronomy 7:6 (NLT) reminds us of this: “…the LORD your God has chosen you to be His own special treasure.”  Hmmm…why would he choose me I wonder? Why did the Lord choose us? A few verses later in Deuteronomy 7:8a explains why: “…it was simply that the LORD loves you…”

Wow! I don’t know about you, but that blows my mind, and it gives me more goosebumps. It is exactly what I needed to hear…again!

Please know, we are loved and we are treasured! It’s that simple! Both are in plain sight!

Stay Calm & Know We Are Priceless Treasures! ❤
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Mental Health Monday

May is Mental Health Awareness month. I know a handful of my students were struggling spring semester and still are even though school is out for the summer. In fact, just today I visited with one who is having a hard time dealing with life. She talked, she cried, I listened. She said she is getting professional help and is getting better (so thankful for that).

Dr. V. and I had the privilege of watching and listening to Gerry Brooks, well-known Kentucky elementary principal, give an hour online ASCD Mental Health Summit presentation on how he has uses object lessons to encourage his staff and build up their mental wellness.  

When googling the definition of object lessons, you are given several choices. The Oxford Language website defines it as a “striking practical example of some principle or ideal.”  Dictionary.com explains it as “a practical or concrete illustration of a principle.” My favorite definition is the one found on Wikipedia (I know, I know…not the most trustworthy, but hey, it’s my favorite!)… “An object lesson is a teaching method that consists of using a physical object of visual aid as a discussion piece for a lesson. Object lesson teaching assumes that material things have the potential to convey information.” (Carter, 2010).

Below are a few of the mental health object lesson ideas I found extremely beneficial:

Light Switch: Principal Brooks gave his staff a light switch. This object is a reminder to his school family to switch off their professional lives and turn on their personal lives when they leave the school building and go home. His professional switch goes off Friday and switches back on Sunday afternoon. His advice to his teachers is you are no good to anyone if you are stressed out so it is okay to turn off your professional switch! Many of his teachers liked this idea so much they went out and bought all their students a light switch. Teachers will ask their students to pull out their light switches and turn off their math brains and turn on their science brains…a simple but yet powerful tool for all to destress!  

M & M’s: Gerry likes to gift his staff with tasty treats. He especially appreciates M & M’s because of all the different flavors (for his diverse staff). If we were to give our colleagues these same treats would we know which kind to give to others? If we know one of our colleagues has a peanut allergy, we certainly would not give them a bag of Peanut M & M’s. We are told to know our colleagues on a personal basis. They can be a support system. Gerry encourages us to send a friendly text to five people a day and just imagine the joy you would have if YOU received such a text:

                                3 friends

                                1 acquaintance

                                1 whoever you need to track down his/her number

Reading Glasses: Principal Brooks gives all his teachers a pair of reading glasses whether they need them or not. He wants us to try our best to look through other people’s lenses so we can be the best we can be in our profession. By doing so teaches us empathy, sympathy, and understanding. Imagine you are teaching your math lesson. It is a very important concept your students MUST know for the test. You are interrupted by the school counselor asking to have one of your students come with her/him. You may be thinking…absolutely not! This child cannot miss this important lesson. What you don’t realize is this counselor has two sets of very angry parents in the office and the only child who can help resolve this issue is the one she needs to take with her. We must try our best to see situations through the lenses of others.

Peanut Butter and Jelly: This object lesson was eyebrow raising for me. I’ve known about it all 34 years of my teaching career, however, this was the first time to ever hear someone point it out and say it out loud. P in peanut butter helps Gerry remember professional, and the J in jelly reminds him of jealousy. OUCH. Truth right there. Honest to goodness truth. Professional jealousy is real!! He admitted he experiences this when he compares his school’s test scores to others. Or a teacher is asked to present at the staff meeting about something wonderful he/she is doing in the classroom and the colleagues become jealous.  A little jealousy rears its ugly head when we start to compare ourselves to others. We may begin to have a little conversation in our head that goes something like this… “what did they do to earn that score? Why did that teacher to get to talk at the staff meeting? I’ve done amazing things too.” I know I’ve made these same types of comparisons, and I’m confident you have too! We must stop this!! We cannot grow if we start to allow professional jealousy.

Valentine Heart Candy: Jerry picked out Valentine’s Day heart candy because they are seasonal. He also shared he has a freezer full of Girl Scout Cookies because once the season for those cookies is done, he cannot get them until the next year. BUT…the good news is, those cookies and those Valentine’s Day candy hearts will be back. The season without them will come to an end. We all have been in a crazy season. Our pandemic the past 14 months has taken a toll on many.  It is seasonal and let’s remember the good news is “this too shall pass!”  It WILL end.

Thank you, Gerry Brooks, for sharing your education wisdom with us. Your presentation is one I will always remember.

The last object lesson I’d like to share is a pillow. The craziest school year in history is coming to an end (thank goodness). To all of you, my fellow educator rock star colleagues…may you be blessed with sweet rest this summer. Lay your head on your soft pillow and smile when you close your eyes.  You did extraordinary things for your students this year and for that we applaud you.

Even though this blog is written from an educator’s perspective, it truly applies to all!!! Turn off your professional switch when you are done working for the day; get to know your colleagues on a personal level; be respectful of others’ perspectives and try to understand the situation by looking at it through a different set of lenses; keep professional jealousy out of your heart and mind and workplace; and when you are experiencing tough times, know it’s only for a season…this too shall pass!

Take care of your mental health, everyone! Your mind matters!!

Stay Calm & Be Well!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.   

Carter, S.A. (2010). An object lesson, or don’t eat the evidence. The Journal of History and Childhood and Youth. (V. 3, Number 1). John Hopkins University. Retrieved May 23, 2021 from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/370309

Seriously Proud of These 2021 Grads!

Seriously, we are so PROUD of these grads! To make it through what they have made it through…history makers for sure! You have taught us as much or more than we have taught you by your actions and persistence during this challenging year.

Now it is time to go make history again…go out and change the world one student, one classroom at a time. We have gifted our new grads with a Mustang journal to keep record of all the lives impacted by their teaching from this day forward. History is no doubt in the making with each step forward and each student positively impacted.

While waiting in line to take their turn to walk the stage and receive their diploma, these School of Education graduates were asked to share a favorite memory from their teacher preparation program here at SMSU. Some declined the question, however, a few were willing to share…

Payton B. – those people who came to Child Lit class and shared about Braille.

Rebecca M. – The Jeffers trainings in Dr. Kandy’s class.

McKenzie D. – When the bus broke down on the way to MEA in the cities.

Kara E. – Building relationships with local educators during field experiences.

Tessa C. – Working with the kids.

Alyssa L. – Meeting my best friend in ED 101.

Miranda M. – All of the great professors.

Avery L. – Oh, the clinicals.

Alyssa G. – My favorite memory was student teaching because I had the best mentor teacher in the best classroom.

Bobby H. – Frankie because she’s Frankie.

Cole M. & Payton H. – The swimming class with Frankie and with all my classmates.  

Lana W. ­– All the learning celebrations we had together.

Issac N. – I would say how helpful each of the SMSU staff were with any questions or help with any instruction.

Carry your memories in your pocket, graduates, then you can pull them out whenever you need to smile.

All of you have found your purpose – your calling – which is teaching. Seriously, we are so PROUD of you! You remind us why we do what we do each day. We excitedly anticipate your next adventure with you; the sky is the limit and SMSU is your springboard. We leave you with a quote by Kerry Washington: “Your life is your story and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.”

Stay Calm & Best Wishes Always!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

One Fruit…Nine Different Qualities

Apples…I love all kinds of them. From varieties such as Yellow Delicious to Honeycrisp to Jazz to Envy, there’s nothing quite as delicious as sinking your teeth into a high-quality apple. What traits make an apple high-quality anyway? If you check out Google, there are several ideas listed there.

Personally, I want my apple to be unspoiled, firm, fresh, ripe, crisp, juicy, sweet, acidic, and versatile. Apple with peanut butter, anyone? 🙋 Or, better yet…how about a slice of warm, right-out-of-the-oven apple pie? Delightful!

One fruit…nine different qualities.

Another vital fruit with nine essential qualities is the Fruit of the Spirit. The mention of this fruit and its first-rate qualities can be found in Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia. In Chapter 5 of Galatians, the Apostle Paul shares with the churches about living a life in the Spirit. Specifically, in Galatians 5:22, Paul teaches the Galatia churches (and us) the important qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  -Galatians 5:22 (NIV).

The Passion Translation (TPT) interprets Galatians 5:22 like this, ”…the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit.” Oooh, I love this translation!

Isn’t it interesting to notice both versions use the word fruit as singular. Just one. According to Lee (2014), it is important for us to understand that the Apostle Paul is not referring to nine different fruits. He is referring to one fruit with nine different qualities. Lee (2014) stated, “It’s the ‘fruit,’ not ‘fruits’ of the spirit. So it’s one fruit encompassing these nine qualities.” (Para. 4)

One fruit…nine different qualities.

Oh, how I want to BE all of these qualities every.single.day. Some days, though, I grow weary and lack energy. I begin to lose faith in my circumstances or the people around me. Some days it’s hard. Really, really hard to put on that happy face and BE the fruit of the Spirit. These are the days I need to lean on God. These are the days I turn back a few pages in my bible from Galatians to 2 Corinthians 12:9 (TPT) and hold on to this promise: “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.”

I’ll always do the best I can to live a life according to the fruit of the Spirit. Won’t you join me? Just like that sweet, warm apple pie, living in the victory of the Holy Spirit will be delightful!  

Stay Calm & Find the Victory!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Lee, D. (2014). Fruit of the spirit includes nine godly qualities. The Spectrum. Retrieved May 4, 2021 from https://amp.thespectrum.com/amp/9319377  

We Are Who God Says We Are

One of my favorite movies from childhood is Mary Poppins.  Do you remember the scene when Mary Poppins reaches down deep into her bottomless bag and pulls out her measuring tape? She wants to see how the Banks children measure up. Michael is ‘extremely stubborn and suspicious.” Jane is “rather inclined to giggle and doesn’t put things away.” When the children ask Mary how she measures up, Mary finds, as she expected, she is ‘practically perfect in every way.’

I have to admit, most days in my life are far from practically perfect in any way shape or form. Can any of you relate?

Those times when we feel insignificant because of life’s let downs. We didn’t get the job we interviewed for or we didn’t get an interview at all. Because of ‘rule’ changes, we are told we are no longer qualified to teach a class we’ve been teaching for 18 years. We aren’t allowed to visit because of someone else being there. Or, when no one liked our Facebook post or our Twitter post or our Instagram post. 🙄

If you are anything like me, I’d say we oscillate between feelings of disappointment and feelings of failure. We begin to think negatively and even say negative thoughts out loud.  “I’m not qualified enough, good enough, creative enough, knowledgeable enough. What is wrong with me? I’m such a loser.”

Let me reassure you right now, those negative thoughts are all lies from the enemy! We need to capture such thoughts and lift ourselves up by speaking life! We must speak truth.

Let’s always remember that we are who God says we are, NOT who the world says we are. So, who exactly are we according to God?

I’ve created Bible ABC cards to remind myself of who God says we are. It helps me focus on truth and not the lies of the enemy. I’ve listed a few of these promises below…

We are…

Accepted: Romans 15:7 reads “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…”

Blessed: Ephesians 1:3 promises “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

Children of God: 1 John 3:1 states “See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are.”

Forgiven: Ephesians 4/32 assures “Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Healed: Isaiah 53:5 declares “…by His wounds we are healed.”

Protected: 2 Thessalonians 3:3 proclaims “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

Valued: Luke 12:7 affirms “And the very hairs on your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid, you are more valuable to God than a flock of sparrows.”  

The next time life hands us disappointments and tries to make us think negatively about ourselves, let’s capture those thoughts and replace them with God’s truth! We ARE who God says we are.

(If you’d like a deck of the Bible ABC cards, please let me know in the comments. I’ll do my best to send you one 😊).

Bible ABC’s

Stay Calm & Capture Your Thoughts!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.   

Develop Informed Opinions on MN State Social Studies Standards: Being Critical Consumers of Media

Image result for mn state social studies standards committee

Photo Credit: http://www.mcss.org/resources/documents/2011%20social%20studies%20standards.pdf

This is a guest blog post written by Brandon Raymo, a lifelong resident of Southwest Minnesota. He grew up in Madison, MN, graduated from Lac qui Parle Valley High School and then pursued a degree in history from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, MN. Brandon graduated from SMSU with a degree in history and a license to teach 5-12 social studies. While in his first years of teaching social studies at Yellow Medicine East in Granite Falls, he went to Minnesota State Mankato and graduated with a Master’s degree in Educational Technology. Brandon is currently employed as the Assistant Director of the Minnesota River Valley Education District in Montevideo, where he resides with his family; wife Katie, children Adelyn, Gretta, and Eli. Brandon is also a volunteer firefighter on the Montevideo Fire Department and serves as the Vice Director of American Legion Baseball in Minnesota. In his spare time he coaches baseball, hunts, and spends time with family and friends at the lake.

The views below are those of the author and in no way reflective of the views of his employer or any other organizations.

For any social studies teacher, or teacher in general, the past few months have been a gold-mine of material! You wake up every day with something new and exciting to talk about with your class. Every day has provided us an opportunity to teach a lesson in civics, history, economics, and even geography. It could be about learning how the election process works, impeachment history, the economics of a stimulus bill, or the Electoral College geography puzzle. I would give anything to be back in my social studies classroom teaching these very important topics as we live them.

As depressing as the divisiveness in our nation is, it is also providing us with an opportunity to teach some very powerful lessons to our students. This divisiveness has also allowed us to reflect and further our own understanding of the world around us. Sometimes these lessons are hard to swallow, or very difficult to teach to students. Moreover, the conversations we have with our families or colleagues over these divisive topics can be very difficult. Regardless of which side of the aisle we fall into politically, or side of a topic we agree with, we must always respect one another.

As a former member of the MN social studies standards review committee, I have continually been reminded of a couple very important lessons. The first being respect, or at the very least, tolerance for one another. As I read through the public comments from draft 1 of the social studies standards, it became apparent that Minnesotans are passionate about social studies education. It warms my heart to see such passion over a content area I love so much. But, what makes my heart ache is the number of people who resort to name-calling and personal threats.

One can get insight into the public comments by simply searching on Twitter or Facebook about news articles associated with draft 1 of the standards. Read through the hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of comments. It won’t take too many comments to realize that this country needs a lesson on respectful civil discourse. Civil discourse is healthy for talking and debating over any topic. However, productive dialogue cannot occur without both parties being respectful of one another. Name-calling and threats will automatically put one party into a defensive position. Conversations cannot be productive if one party is constantly trying to defend themselves. We cannot approach our conversations with the idea that I am right and you are wrong. Instead, we need to come to the conversation with a mindset of, “I have ideas and you have ideas, let’s put these ideas together to create something we both can agree upon”.

Draft 1 of the standards is based on the C3 Framework (College, Career, and Civic ready). The catch 22 to all this uproar is that the people providing feedback, critical feedback, or threatening feedback, are doing exactly what is being called for in the new standards according to the C3 Framework.  Within the framework, it calls for people to develop claims and take informed action. However, many of the people providing the threatening feedback may need a lesson in developing claims based upon credible evidence and then taking informed action. Many of these people have developed claims based upon reading one article or hearsay and their choice of action was providing public comments, however, ill informed.

The second important lesson that has been a great reminder for me and would be an awesome teaching tool for my students is the ability to be critical consumers of the media. I lost count of the number of people who have come to me, clearly upset over draft 1 of the standards. My initial response to all of them is to stop, take a breath, and brush off the knee-jerk reaction to reading one article. As hard as any writer tries, there is bias in every article. Some writers will cherry pick “facts” that further their argument regardless of the context. Some writers will be defensive and try to refute the facts, regardless of the context. Some will try to provide more context to clear things up. We can’t fall into the trap of reading one article, believing it to be completely factual, and then reacting. Part of being a critical consumer of the media is the ability to recognize bias and take in multiple perspectives and formulate your own opinion. I often use the example of my students writing research papers. I wouldn’t allow my students to formulate their opinion based upon one source.

On the issue of the social studies standards, regardless how you feel about them, please hear all sides, do your own research, and ask your own questions. Many people that come to me, who are shocked about the changes to the standards, have typically read a couple articles. The first article being an opinion piece in the Star Tribune from Katherine Kersten titled, Woke Revolution Looms for Minnesota Schools. The second being MN Social Studies Standards are Under Revision: Here are top 5 areas of concern written by Catrin Wigfall and published by The Center of the American Experiment.

Now, if I had read only one of these articles and didn’t have any other information, I too would be upset. However, as mentioned, in order to be a critical consumer of the media, we need to be able to recognize bias and take in multiple perspectives to formulate our own opinions. We then can direct our attention to another opinion piece in the Star Tribune titled, Counterpoint: Why the shift in social studies standards is needed, by Aaliyah Hodge, member of the MN social studies standards review committee.

We need to read everything with an open mind. Bring in as many perspectives as possible and formulate our own opinion or ask further questions. Even our Minnesota Senators have fallen into this trap of reading one source and believing it to be factual. Senator Dahms released a video outlining his concerns over the standards. However, as you will see in Mark Westpfahl’s Twitter thread, had Senator Dahms been more informed on the topic, his video could have had a different message. The video by Senator Dahms is a knee-jerk reaction to one source and he is spreading misinformation and fueling the flames of divisiveness.

Instead of providing a knee-jerk reaction to draft 1 of the standards, maybe we need to be asking more clarifying questions?

  • Why are so many aspects of history not included in draft 1?
    • Mark Westpfahl offered an excellent explanation of this in his Twitter thread on the topic.
  • What is the C3 Framework & why was it chosen as the base document for draft 1?
  • How can I become more informed about the process of standard review?
  • What opportunities will I have to participate in the process?
  • If I don’t agree with something, what means of appropriate civil discourse do I have?

As a former member of the committee, I can assure you that more specificity is coming in draft 2. In the introduction it specifically states on page 2 that more specificity is coming, along with everything Mark Westpfahl states in his Twitter thread. I urge everyone to become informed about the topic before jumping to conclusions. Read through the whole draft, take-in multiple viewpoints with an open mind, and ask your own questions. Then formulate your own opinion and decide on informed action if needed.

I close with a story. I have a 4-year old son, Eli. We were home for a couple days during the 2nd impeachment trial. Eli was putting a puzzle together while I watched the coverage of the trial. The House Managers were showing video of the insurrection at the Capitol. The violence, screaming, chanting, etc… that had ensued. My 4 year old looks at me and asks, “Dad, this isn’t real, is it?” I got choked up trying to answer him in a way he will hopefully understand. After fumbling my way through what I felt was an appropriate answer, he looks at me and says, “Dad, we shouldn’t act like that if we don’t get our way, right?” If a 4 year old can understand respectful civil discourse, I have faith that our country/state/communities can as well.

Stay Calm & Be a Critical Consumer of the Media!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.