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Building the Future

Happy New Year!

Many of us took an extended holiday week off to spend time with friends and family, perhaps travel, and most certainly unwind and refresh. As 2018 begins, we look ahead to all that is possible in our new year, and reflect on the past year’s achievements. (Do any of us take out our 2017 New Year’s resolutions for comparison?)

While I always enjoy reflecting on the past, it seems the time is more pressured than ever before to look ahead and plot my next move. I was most reminded of this the day our 97th NCSS Annual Conference concluded in San Francisco on Sunday, November 19. I had a few moments of “down time” before catching my flight home, and strolled through Fisherman’s Wharf and explored some city neighborhoods. No sooner was I at the airport than messages and requests about our 98th Annual Conference in Chicago started to appear. Our social studies community accomplished a lot in San Francisco together, and it was already time to build on that momentum by taking stock of those accomplishments and moving them forward into 2018.

Building the future for social studies education means building a shared vision and set of actions to support critical investments for our profession in 2018. In a recent blog post, I shared three areas where I believe critical investments are needed for social studies education to continue as the foundation for a well-rounded education:

  • Equitable time for social studies instruction in the elementary curriculum.
  • Sustained support of teacher professional development in the social studies.
  • Student voice in providing social studies as part of a well-rounded education.

Building the future of social studies education also means sharing your personal voice and experience with educators from across the United States and world. Recently, NCSS issued a call for proposals for our 98th Annual Conference in Chicago (November 30-December 2, 2018). The critical investments I noted above start with you! I invite you to explore our conference sub-themes, both to guide your proposal for submission and to shape our collective thinking about how new investments in the social studies are possible in 2018. Here are the conference sub-themes from our NCSS website:


The issues of religion, class, race and gender, among others, have permeated historical study and analysis for millennia. Proposals in this area might focus on how these issues have affected who we are, what we believe, where we have been and where we are going. [history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, archaeology]

The World Around Us

Human interaction with the environment and other cultures is a key concept in social studies. Proposals might highlight interdisciplinary studies that explore geographic and environmental issues that have shaped our world. [geography, environmental studies, sociology, world cultural studies]

Keeping Current

Staying abreast of our global society has become a social studies imperative. Proposals in this area might focus on an understanding of how governments and economic systems have changed to be able to withstand the constantly changing world. [civics and government, economics, law-related education, global studies]

Who? What? How?

Teaching has grown more complex as research and anecdotal commentary focuses on the realities in classrooms. Proposals in this area might demonstrate:

  • Who? English language learners, special education students, and other student groups create unique challenges. How do educators meet their diverse needs simultaneously?
  • What? How can social studies teachers balance state standards and students? How do elementary teachers fit social studies into a curriculum driven by math and reading/language arts?
  • How? How can we best help the future of our profession? Practical help, advice, and mentoring are essential to firmly anchor the "newbies"—preservice teachers, novice teachers, alternative certification teachers—in the profession. How can NCSS help them develop? [pedagogy, technology, classroom management, ELL, special education]

21st Century Skills

Teaching has grown more complex as research and anecdotal commentary focuses on the realities in classrooms. Proposals in this area might focus on the research, innovative methods of delivery, and technology that address the needs of students. How are you building the 21st-century skills of critical thinking and problem solving, innovation, collaboration and communication necessary for students to become tomorrow's leaders? [educational research, assessment, methodology, technology]

I encourage us to use these sub-themes to guide our next annual conference—and, even more, to guide our professional conversations and plan for vital new investments in social studies in 2018. These five sub-themes will shape our next annual convening. These sub-themes can serve as our “social studies conversation-starters”—the questions to guide theory, research and practice, and our approaches to making those critical investments in equitable elementary instruction, sustained teacher professional development, and an increased student voice.

From our NCSS family to yours, here’s to a bold and exciting new year ahead!