What is a Social Studies Teacher?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2019
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A social studies teacher is an educator who instructs students in a wide range of topics that relate to understanding and contributing to societies around the world. The subjects she normally teaches include politics, history, government and geography. Current events, civics and ethical issues are also popular subjects. This type of teacher traditionally teaches in grade levels from kindergarten through 12th grade, depending on the structure of the school system.

The most defining aspect of being a social studies teacher is the diversity of subjects that fit into the class. A math teacher is traditionally required to teach some form of mathematics, such as basic arithmetic, algebra or geometry, but a teacher of social studies can have a lesson plan that meanders around the world and includes discussions on virtually any topic that affects society. One topic of interest frequently spurs interest in another.

Depending on the grade level at which she teaches, a social studies teacher commonly assigns homework and projects related to current issues and historical events that may have had notable effects on society. At the high school level, her students may express political leanings as they progress toward adulthood. In the lower grade levels, students are frequently educated on more concrete subjects such as geography and history.


Due to the sensitive nature of many social studies issues, a successful teacher is normally expected to maintain neutrality as she introduces and leads discussions. Her empathy and unbiased insight, especially at the high school and junior high school levels, ordinarily gains the trust of the students. This trust typically leads to candor in classroom interchanges and motivates students to learn more about a wide variety of subjects.

A social studies teacher, like other teachers, is normally required to follow a core curriculum. She is customarily expected to adjust that curriculum to incorporate the various cultural backgrounds, attitudes and academic capabilities of her students. Dividing the students into groups to study different topics or arranging formal debates on social issues are common teaching methods that help students learn from each other as well as about each other.

In addition to using standardized textbooks, a social studies teacher frequently asks her students to bring in magazine and newspaper articles that have spiked their interest in current affairs. This usually initiates enlightening discussion in the classroom. It also gives the teacher and students a clearer perception of what issues are of genuine concern to them.

Becoming a social studies teacher customarily requires a bachelor’s degree as well as a teaching certificate. Requirements may vary by region and school. Teaching experience is not always mandatory. Demonstrated communication and motivational skills are preferred traits for the position.


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Post 3

@Fa5t3r - I think there is room for some things to be mandatory, although I know it's difficult to choose. I can still remember learning about the Holocaust in social studies as a kid and how it changed the way I saw the world. And myself, for that matter.

I would expect any decent curriculum to cover that subject.

Post 2

@irontoenail - Social studies is related to so many different careers it's not funny, so it shouldn't be ignored by a curriculum even if integration isn't encouraged.

Honestly, the best lesson plans for teachers in social studies involve letting the students research topics of their own choice (within reason). You're never going to cover every single topic you could in social studies anyway, so you might as well stick to the ones that interest them.

If you make it so that they have to present their research, that means the whole class will learn from it anyway.

Post 1

I have to say that if you are thinking of coming up with some classroom lesson plans for social studies, you might want to look at how to make them integrated lessons.

Social studies doesn't get nearly as much time as it should when schools demand that the curriculum focus on bedrock subjects like writing and mathematics.

But you can integrate writing, reading and math into a lot of social studies topics. Statistics are a big part of many topics in social studies and there are many classic novels relating to different aspects of civics and history.

I think it's fairly redundant these days to just teach abstract skills like math and writing without giving them a real world context and social studies can provide that context.

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