NCSS Annual Conference: An incredible opportunity for inspiration and information

Along with thousands of other social studies educators and professionals, I went to the 2018 National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Annual Conference in Chicago. Like ICSS Conferences, NCSS brought together experts in the social studies and history to lead sessions for educators. The big difference is the size and, as a result, the number of options.

“Even Clarence agreed with me.”

– Anthony Ray Hinton, discussing the unanimous decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn his wrongful conviction for murder.

After arriving bright and early on Friday morning, I headed to a discussion by Anthony Ray Hinton. For those of you unfamiliar with Hinton, he was falsely imprisoned and sentences to death row. Only after a successful appeal to the Supreme Court were his charges dropped. Obviously, the speech addressed the many wrongs by society that left him sentenced to death for a crime that he had nothing to do with. However, even more thought provoking were his efforts to humanize his fellow inmates in a most inhumane setting – a book club which gave death row inmates far more exposure to literature than many had received in school where most dropped out by the 8th grade. Speaking of book clubs, Hinton’s autobiography recently hit the jackpot when it was selected by Oprah as a must read.  That evening I read the copy of his autobiography that I got signed, “The Sun Does Shine” and found that I agreed with Oprah. It was inspiring and Hinton’s humor brought an unexpected amount of joy into a tale that seems at first to be simply a downer. Make sure to find it your local library or buy it using this link.

Later on, I joined other educators interested in US-Canadian History at “Pathways of Change: Natives and French in the Great Lakes” by Professor José António Brandão of Western Michigan University. He addressed the French influence and domination of eastern Illinois and other parts of the “pays d’en haut” into the mid-1700s. Through the use of maps both from the time and contemporary, we witnessed the growth of New France from a few thousand Europeans around Montreal to a fur trading empire that stretched far west through the largely (but not always) friendly trades with Native Americans for their furs. He emphasized the experiences of these Native Americans through much of the lecture which was great since it showed that France’s century of success was largely a result of the agency of these indigenous nations. I had never known so much about this history, but it inspired to research it further and found some great information on local history associated with this period on the Evanston History Center website

Finally, I attended a series of other amazing lectures both later that afternoon and the next day. From NPR host Peter Sagal‘s discussion of what he felt is a very dark time in presidential history and his core beliefs

This I Believe:

  1. Conversations Convert
  2. Power does not listen
  3. Fart Jokes Heal
  4. Democracy is a Religion
  5. Everything is Evitable

-Peter Sagal

to a data analysis heavy explanation of where the economy is 10 years after the Great Recession by Federal Reserve analysts. Along the way, I was given ten tools to help promote literacy in the classroom by an organizer of National History Day and shown methods to engage all learned including those with disabilities. 

My experience here was amazing, and I encourage other social studies educator to look out for future opportunities to attend NCSS conference. In the meantime, consider attending ICSS’s local conference this spring. It will feature many great resources to build your teaching skills and it is practically free in comparison to NCSS!

ar west


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