The Journey and Passion of Two Social Studies

Learning to teach is not enough, future teachers also need to learn how to learn (Dembo, 2001). At this era of accountability, high-stakes teaching, Common Core Standards, Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA), and Danielson Standards it is not possible to focus exclusively on training teachers on content, curriculum, and assessment. Teachers and teacher candidates need to acquire self-regulatory skills and competencies, and know how motivation, emotions, and cognition all interact in order for teachers to maintain effective classroom management (Zimmerman, 2008). Self-regulation is a multidimensional process by which teachers engage in proactive, self-directed, self-motivated learning while pursuing their educational and professional goals. Empowering teachers with self-regulation will enable them to monitor, control, evaluate, and reflect about their own thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs, which in turn will help them to instill those skills to their classroom students.

Attaining self-regulation is a cyclical process (Zimmerman, 2008) consistent with the three phases of the edTPA (White & DiBenedetto, 2013). The forethought phase is consistent with the planning phase of the edTPA in which teacher candidates engage in lesson planning. The performance phase is consistent with the planning phase of the edTPA implementation of lesson phase and the self-reflection phase is consistent with the student assessment phase. Consequently, the era of just teaching content, methods, and curriculum is out-of-date and defunct. A new era focused on self-regulation and motivation of teachers is with us to stay. Below are narratives of the journey and passion of two social studies teachers who understand the importance of self-regulation of learning and self-efficacy of teaching in this era of high-stakes teaching.

Teaching Social Studies is my passion and self-regulation of learning and self-efficacy beliefs are the key motors that drive me to act toward developing self-fulfillment, attaining educational and professional goals, and sustaining a high level of motivation in spite of demanding and challenging tasks. I am currently a graduate student at Queens College pursuing a Masters in Adolescent Education in Social Studies. I have been a social studies teacher and senior advisor to 11th and 12 graders for the past two years at Frances Perkins Academy in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a small Big Picture Learning high school.

At Queens College, I have been very privileged to complete both my undergraduate and graduate degrees under the tutelage of notable education professors, such as Dr. Jack Zevin and Dr. Héfer Bembenutty. Along with the importance of learning history, methods, assessment, and curriculum of social studies, as an undergraduate, I learned that the principles of delay of gratification, self-regulation, self-monitoring, and self-efficacy beliefs are the foremost tools employed to engage students in learning and positive social interactions. As a student myself, I had to grapple with the pragmatism of these principles in my journey through college in order to effectively see their merits. As my professors strived to show me the practical implications of these educational principles, I began to apply them to my own life and school work. I was able to understand that I could not be successful as a teacher if I could not effectively convey to my students my own experiences with delay of gratification and self-efficacy.

As I began my first year as a licensed educator, I struggled to hold onto these essential principles and effectively practice their use in my first months of teaching. I was a young African-American woman teaching in a majority Hispanic and African-American male school with mostly over-aged seniors who were severely credit deficient and in danger of not graduating. I began to despair and question my own teacher self- efficacy because I did not believe that I could help these students graduate on time given the severe education situation they were in. Many of my students did not believe in their ability to graduate nor had they thought about their life after high school. Many of them had not planned future goals because the future was an abstract concept to them. They did not understand the importance of help seeking as a self-regulatory strategy and believed that help seeking was a threat to their self-esteem. They did not understand that planning, selecting strategies, assessing their motivation, setting goals, self-monitoring, and reflecting of academic outcomes are essential subprocesses that could help them to develop as self-regulated learners and to empower them toward attaining long-term academic achievements.

As an educator, I want to be a caring, competent, and qualified educator who could teach every child. My educational training equipped me well with the necessary content, pedagogical, and professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions in order for me to teach all my diverse students. It was the perseverance of my students and the teaching and continued encouragement that I received from colleagues and professors at Queens College that gave me the beliefs that I can make differences in the lives of my students. I decided to build the self-efficacy of my students by incorporating self-regulation, delay of gratification, and self-monitoring devices into my advisement curriculum.

Although teaching content is essential, teaching content is not enough. I had to convince my students to believe that they could graduate and be successful if they took responsibility for monitoring their own learning and their own accomplishments. I needed to convey the beliefs that they can do it. To begin this process, I created a system of reinforcements for completed assignments, benchmark progress and evidence of studying. With the help of the guidance counselor, behavior and academic contracts were created for students to self- monitor their own behavior and learning through the constant reminder of the stipulations and expectations of these agreed to contracts.

My own self-efficacy began to improve not only because I could tangibly see a change in the attitudes, behaviors, and progress but because I truly believed that teaching my students to monitor their own learning would help them be successful as it has helped me in my own journey throughout school. I believed in my ability to reach my students and became a self-efficacious teacher using the same canons of education that my professors employed to make me into a self- efficacious student. Not only did the accomplishment of my students reinforce my belief in myself but to use the education I had received at Queens College to help the education of others made all the hard work and challenges of college and student teaching well worth it.