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Headed for the Future

Throughout my career, professional associations have been my lifeline to a world of colleagues, connections, and learning beyond my classroom and office. As we begin “a new year” at NCSS, our Annual Conference theme—Building the Future of Social Studies—is both our mission and our promise to each member in our social studies community. I owe my success to our social studies professional associations at every level. I felt prepared and confident to teach before holding my first permanent position, due significantly to the resources and support I found through our councils. How can we welcome you into our community this year? How can we help to build your future in social studies?

I often describe professional associations as “the original social networks.” Before the days of Facebook and Instagram, organizations like ours brought educators together in a common goal to provide leadership, service, and support for their professional needs. Conferences, publications, and leadership opportunities were our original ways of being a network. Those ways are evolving, and we are evolving to meet them. In the past year alone, NCSS has engaged members in sharing original blogs and podcasts on topics you care about; expanded membership options for different learning needs; and developed a new series of summer teaching institutes and year-round webinars and programs. When you attend our Annual Conference and other professional learning programs, read our journals and books, or discover our blogs and social media posts for the first time, you connect to a social network with a rich history of service. Yet, we do not rest on our history; rather, we use it to build our future.

Whether you are a new or experienced member of our network, I hope you will build your future with us! Here are several ways to get started this year:

  • 98th Annual Conference: The nation’s largest and most comprehensive social studies conference returns to Chicago this November. Join us for sessions, clinics, tours, speakers, and so much more. While you’re there, please find our various groups and committees and dive right into leadership opportunities with us. Depending on your professional role, you may want to come early to attend one of our Associated Group pre-conference meetings.

  • NCSS & Affiliated Council Events: Our network of affiliated regional, state, and local social studies councils means that you can access numerous professional development programs close to home and around the country. Even if you cannot travel to specific events, programs like our webinar series and Live Learning Center mean you can access workshops and sessions from the comfort of your home.

  • Special Interest Communities: We currently support over 20 vibrant communities to connect you to members with social studies interests similar to yours. All communities are open to all members, so browse our list of active communities today and sign up for one or more. As an NCSS member, I enjoyed sharing in many online community discussions, and even serving as vice-chair of one (the Research Community), in which I helped to select research award winners and research-into-practice sessions for the Annual Conference.

  • Associated Groups: Our members also organize into formal subgroups within NCSS, to serve professional needs tailored to their specific job responsibilities. If you are a local social studies administrator, a state social studies specialist, a college or university faculty member, an educator passionate about global learning, or interested in social science research and practice, we have a group for you! As an NCSS member, I was a member of three Associated Groups at different points in time through my various professional roles. Just like with full NCSS membership, my participation in each group enabled me to learn about trends in social studies policy, leadership, and research. (I even had a chance to share my dissertation research one year!)

  • Committees: We continuously seek members to serve on vital committees that support our operations. Committee service is a great way to meet other members and support some great NCSS initiatives and programs. (My first service was on the former NCSS Instruction Committee, by the way. We discussed best teaching practices.) Our committees advise on NCSS publications, membership, visitors from international destinations, and more. There is something for any interest.

There are many other ways to create within our community:

  • Blog: Would you like to set up and contribute to a regular blog posted on our web site? Blogging is a great way to informally share and test your ideas for social studies with our entire membership. They are easy to set up with us, and create content that is easily posted for immediate discussion.

  • Write an Article: We invite formal articles, reviews, and essays on a wide range of topics for each of our three journals. View our submission guidelines to prepare an original work for publication in either Social Education, Middle Level Learning, and Social Studies & the Young Learner. We welcome your contributions to continue our proud tradition of award-winning, high-quality official publications.

  • Apply for an Award: Our annual recognition programs honor outstanding classroom teachers of the year, research, publications, and more. Nominations are always encouraged – and we welcome your service on any of our award selection committees, to recognize the best of social studies education.

  • Start an Honor Society Chapter: We are proud to offer Rho Kappa, our national social studies honor society, for high school juniors and seniors. Rho Kappa recognizes student achievement and engagement in your school’s social studies program.

These are a handful of the many, many ways you can create, engage, build, and grow with us. I am running out of room, and there’s much more to share! If you have not done so in a while, poke around our NCSS web site to see what we’re up to. Please reach out to us anytime at to learn more about any of these programs and offerings, to contribute your talents, and to make the most of our network. If you did not read about a great way to engage with your network through this post, please reach out and suggest another way. We are poised for an outstanding year at NCSS. How can we help you?