When I was teaching, I always made it a point to integrate current events whenever possible. It was partially out of me being a news nerd, but it was also my way of trying to instill in my kids a sense of citizenship.
Here are some other ideas to make sure you’re not just turning out students prepared for the next grade level, but also citizens that are prepared to contribute in their community.
Spend a good deal of time, particularly at the beginning of the year, on activities that highlight the diversity found within your own classroom. Each student comes to class with a different background and culture that can enlighten the other students. Just don’t push kids to share if they aren’t ready. They might feel self-conscious about their differences and need to feel more comfortable before willing to participate.
Our schools (rightfully so) spend a lot of time focused on how to attract people from the community to come help, either financially or through initiatives like mentoring. The best way to attract attention is to be willing to help out yourself. Organize volunteer activities for your kids not only to get the word out about the school, but also because it’s the right thing to do. Offer extra credit if you have to. If the community gets to meet some good kids, they’ll be willing to help more.
Don’t be afraid of politics (to a point)
Most districts have strict rules about how to cover political themes in class, mostly making sure materials stay unbiased. But having some knowledge about what is going on in your government is key to citizenship. If there is something going on that you think kids would be interested in, bring it up. Just make sure you keep it fair and balanced.
A lot of student organizations, like National Honor Society, make community service a key part of their activities. At some schools clubs like these are quite popular, but might still need help from adults. If your school has some civic clubs that are having a tough time getting off the ground, suggest them strongly to kids that you think would be interested and be willing to help out yourself.
Go out of the comfort zone
A key part of being a good citizen, especially locally, is to expose yourself to all of the different neighborhoods, cultures, and issues surrounding the school. Not only should you the teacher do this in an effort to better understand your students’ at-home environments, but it might also be a good idea to have the students become better acquainted with the world outside. Participate at neighborhood fairs and local holiday parades or join up with local service organizations and charities. This can be particularly valuable if your students tend to be bussed in from other neighborhoods.