Terry L. Cherry
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
—A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, English novelist (1812–1870)
So often, people only quote or know just the first dozen words of this famous opening. Dickens paints a picture of a time both blissful and bleak, an image that certainly applies today. We sometimes forget the good we are doing in the world. Working with students, while applying C3 Framework techniques, offers ways to have students seek information. Always enjoyable to witness such in the classroom. Listening to the news and sharing with students, it can be a real challenge to not dwell on the negatives. The challenge is to present all sides of a civic issue— without parents or administrators seeking a meeting with the teacher afterward.
As you read these thoughts, most of you will be back into the routine of school. How do you continue to keep your teaching fresh, interesting, challenging, and enjoyable for your students and you? Here comes the commercial: You have at your technology fingertips the NCSS website, www.socialstudies.org. Here you will find many various articles; lesson plans; professional learning webinars; schedules for state, regional, and national meetings; curriculum standards; and links to associated groups. Likewise, the TSSP newsletter and the blogs, discussions, and announcements at NCSS Connected, connected.socialstudies.org/home, will keep you in touch with what your colleagues are doing and thinking. You’ll also find a five-point NCSS Strategic Plan, www.socialstudies.org/about/strategicplan, that will continually guide your association’s staff and volunteer leadership.
If you are the type of educator who likes to do the same activities you did last year, and the ten years before that, then maybe this website is not for you. But if you are what I title an “Unmost Teacher,” who is unlike the “run-of-the-mill, lecture-drill-and-kill” teacher, then NCSS can help you continue to be the educator who students seek and fellow teachers admire, though they may not admit it. An “UnMost Teacher” is one who goes to conferences; attends summer training without being told by the district; and reaches out to students, other teachers, parents, administrators, and the community.
NCSS is making progress to be your “go to” hub for your social studies and social science needs. Larry Paska, NCSS Executive Director, and the Board of Directors discuss ways for NCSS to provide needed information for our educators. We’d like to hear from you about what you would like to see on the website to assist you in your work.
In Dickens opening paragraph, he presents contrasts of the good and bad. As educators, we receive many unfair comments, criticisms, and other forms of “bad press,” and still we return to our passion. We need to remember that Dickens mentions the good along with the bad. Maybe our goal this year is to promote the good and let others mention the bad.
The secretary who schedules and promotes all of the school’s many events and activities needs to be commended for that good work. The custodian who everyday takes a messy space and makes it shiny again needs to know someone noticed. The teacher in your department who is having a difficult time this year needs to hear a positive comment. The student who came from a difficult situation at home needs to hear there is good in the world. The administrator who is not your favorite person in the building needs a word or deed to make them smile.
Whether we have read this Dickens classic or not, we have read those 12 opening words. That famous opening paragraph still describes the situations before us. The choice is this: what do we want people to see in us? Life is what you make it. So is your classroom, your job, your surroundings.
I always appreciate any and all comments you have, so please let me know. Plus, NCSS board and staff want to hear what you would like us to supply for you to make NCSS your “go to” website. firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Terry L. Cherry