About 200 social studies teachers from around the state made their way to the Old Town Conference Center in downtown Wichita last Sunday and Monday for the annual state conference. If you were there, you know this already.
If you were not there . . . well, you missed a lot of social studies awesome. Seriously. Make plans for next year. Great conversations. Great learning. Great networking. Great food. Great people.
We know that Kansas does social studies a bit differently. Ever since 2013, when the latest state standards document was released, teachers in the state are being asked to focus on five major themes and historical thinking skills rather than just teaching a bunch of dates and places. It’s the balance between process and knowledge that we’re after.
But doing things differently also extends to our state level conference. It seems that in most other states, the different social studies organizations host their own conferences. Econ here. Geo there. History somewhere else. Here in Kansas?
The four major social studies groups – the Kansas Council for Economic Education, the Kansas Council for History Education, the Kansas Council for the Social Studies, and the Kansas Geographic Alliance – all work together to host one conference a year. With the support and encouragement of the Kansas Department of Education, this makes it easier for K-12 teachers to find us all in the same place and increases the cumulative social studies goodness.
The following is a guest post from Doing Social Studies contributor Joe Zlatnik, an 8th grade Social Studies teacher at Basehor-Linwood Middle School
Professional development, for most of us, occurs in our own building and districts, and, in my experience, is not usually planned with social studies teachers in mind. The professional development I have been involved with is usually very general and is rarely specific to what I teach. While this is unfortunate, the burden on school administrators planning professional development opportunities is understandable. STEM subjects and reading are the major priorities of the state of Kansas, and school districts follow suit. Considering the shrinking budgets across the state, there is less and less available for content-specific professional development, especially for Social Studies teachers.
While this is certainly a disappointing reality, there are incredible opportunities available for those who seek them out. Conferences, such as KCSS and NCSS, are great opportunities to network and learn from some of the best Social Studies teachers from around the state and country. There are also a number of opportunities available during the summer for teachers who seek to grow as a professional.
Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to take part in the George Washington Teacher Institute at the our first President’s beloved estate, Mt. Vernon. This five-day, four-night residential professional development program focused on the leadership and legacy of George Washington, and the lessons that we can derive from him and his experiences. Dr. Denver Brunsman of George Washington University led the institute. We also had opportunities to collaborate with Mt. Vernon’s historians, curators, educational experts, and the fellow teachers taking part in the institute.
For some of you, this post may not be that relevant. You don’t live close to Kansas. Or maybe you’re not a social studies teacher. But if you live in Kansas, or close to Kansas, or don’t mind making a trip to Kansas and you’re a social studies teacher, have I got a deal for you.
For the last two years, the Kansas Department of Education, the Kansas Council for History Education, and the Kansas Council for the Social Studies has co-hosted a one day conference focused on best practices and instructional resources. It’s always a great time. You make new friends. You meet old friends. You eat great food. You walk away with door prizes. And you always learn a ton.
The Kansas Geographic Alliance, the Kansas Council for Economic Education, and the Kansas Historical Society all show up as well. Basically, if you have a question about social studies, this conference is the place to be. And it really is for anyone who wants to be a part of an awesome learning opportunity.