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The Difference Between Teaching and Learning

After my first year in the classroom, my parents gave me a wooden picture frame shaped like an apple for my desk. The apple frame included a special quote etched in the glass that read, “In everything I teach, I find something to learn.”

A recent search engine binge for the source of that quote resulted in finding many other excellent inspirational quotes about teaching and learning – but no attribution to the quote on my frame. I started to read and reflect on the many variations of my quote found:

  • “You teach best what you most need to learn.” – Richard Bach
  • “Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching.” – Unknown?
  • “We teach what we need to learn.” – Gloria Steinem
  • “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” – Phil Collins

These quotes, while similar, also reinforce the massive foundation of education itself: teaching and learning are mutually interdependent. They nourish each other. Teachers are lifelong learners themselves. Students prepare to become lifelong teachers to those around them, as well. Teachers and learners are one and the same—it just depends on the situation or context they’re in. By being a constant learner, we strengthen our teaching practice. By being a teacher, we are engaged in learning. 

I am excited to welcome you back to the classroom, and I know that for many, “school” took on a different form this summer out of the classroom, but it was still happening. Most of our learning was to inspire and enrich us, and help us grow as lifelong teachers and learners. Many of us made new friends and lifetime colleagues. We were likely refreshed and rejuvenated.

As you return to your “official” classrooms, NCSS is ready to support your professional learning goals this year. We seek to be your go-to resource for social studies teaching and learning. Here are a couple of resources to get you started:

  • 98th Annual Conference: What better place to be this year than the largest meeting of social studies educators in the country? Our Annual Conference is from November 30–December 2 in Chicago. Our theme, “Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow: Building the Future of Social Studies”, ensures that this is a must-attend event for all educators. Just as you continued to build your future as a learner and teacher this summer, we’re providing a venue for achieving your professional goals and advancing the future of our entire profession! Take a look at the featured speakers, sessions, clinics, and special events that I think will make this the most rewarding three days of professional learning all year. Our Conference Preview (PDF) guide is now available to review. Join us in Chicago—your social studies family is waiting to learn and teach with you!
  • Constitution Day Resources: Every year, September 17 is Constitution Day. If you’re like me, you scramble to get the right resources into your lesson on this important date to grow interest in our Constitution to your students. To help you prepare, we collected recent publications from our journals on teaching about the U.S. Constitution. Please explore these resources and enjoy structuring some social studies inquiry around them!
  • The C3 Framework: The College, Career, and Civic Life (“C3”) Framework turns five years old this fall, and NCSS continues to expand upon it with new publications and resources. The C3 Framework was recently printed in a new edition to include a supplement on teaching about religious studies. In addition, NCSS recently published a new book, Teaching the C3 Framework Part II. You can explore our entire C3 Framework collection online. These books are excellent resources for your school or district professional development program, and of course your individual use.
  • Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society: Give the gift of active engagement and lifelong learning in social studies to your students! Rho Kappa chapters are easy to start and provide an excellent way for high school juniors and seniors to be honored for their outstanding social studies achievement. Our chapters also develop strong programs to active student engagement in social studies topics.

This is a small sample of our resources to get you started. Start achieving your professional goals this year by joining us in Chicago; downloading our free instructional resources; digging into our C3 Framework for social studies inquiry; and inviting your students into a lifelong love of social studies. Keep your membership active and engaged by joining our online communities and leadership opportunities.

Please share this message with your friends and colleagues who seek to expand their network and resources by joining a large professional learning community focused on their teaching and learning interests.

Have a great year. We’re ready to serve you!