HM - October 2017 - Busse and Gribble

Annual Conference

Attending the NCHE Annual Conference as Pre-Service Teachers
Abby Busse and Lexi Gribble
Ball State University
In March of 2017, we decided to attend the annual NCHE Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. During our nine-hour car ride, we contemplated what the conference would be like and what experiences we would have as pre-service teachers from Indiana. We knew that it would be a beneficial experience that could help in our development as social studies teachers, but we did not know what to expect. After spending three days in Atlanta with other people passionate about history education, we headed back to Indiana with a wealth of new knowledge and resources. Even though it is not typical for pre-service teachers to attend the annual conference, here are some reasons why other pre-service teachers should attend in the future. 

At the conference, we quickly discovered that most of what we would gain would come from our interactions with people and organizations that work to promote history education. 

The annual conference also showed us the importance of networking and professional development when it comes to improving social studies education across the nation.  We had opportunities to talk to various exhibitors and conference attendees throughout the weekend, and we quickly realized the importance of sharing ideas and casting vision with fellow educators.  Networking and professional development are important for college students who are looking to enter into the teaching field.  Teacher education programs are focused on learning how to become an educator, but this conference is an opportunity to begin to transition from student to teacher.

During the opening night reception, we were given the opportunity to explore the exhibit hall and meet different organizations that provide resources related to the social sciences.  For a pre-service teacher, this is a great opportunity to obtain free resources that could be implemented in the classroom.  We went home with new posters, books, pamphlets, band-aids, and access to online resources.  As college students, we recognize that we do not have classrooms of our own yet, but resources like these will be helpful as we work to make our future classrooms into history laboratories. 

After our first day at the conference, we realized that we were the only two pre-service teachers in attendance. While this did not negatively impact our experience, we can see the benefits of other people in our position attending future conferences. The opportunity to interact and network with other pre-service teachers could have been beneficial to our own development as future educators. We hope to share in this experience with other pre-service teachers in the future, but this will not happen unless other students in teacher education programs know about this opportunity. Our experience would not have been possible without our professor, Dr. Sarah Drake Brown, who promoted the conference to our class and was willing to help us find the means to attend.  Dr. Drake Brown’s enthusiasm about the conference and her practical help in getting there were what convinced us to attend.  She answered our questions, provided notes to our professors explaining why we would be missing class, and helped us pay for the conference by asking our school’s History Department to help cover the cost of our hotel.  It was her time and effort that made this conference possible for us to attend.
Our weekend in Atlanta provided opportunities to learn and discuss a wide array of topics concerning both history and education through the breakout and keynote sessions. There were a large variety to choose from throughout the conference, and we found that while we attended the conference together, we had drastically different experiences because of the breakout sessions we attended. Conference attendees had the opportunity to create their own experience, and it is easy to see there were a variety of perspectives presented throughout the breakout sessions. This allowed us to practice many of the Habits of Mind throughout the conference, such as “engage in patient reflection and constant reexamination of the past and present.” The Habits of Mind will be used in our future classrooms, and it was fascinating to see them come to life throughout the conference. 

Looking back, there were various ways that the conference was beneficial to us as pre-service teachers.  We met important people in the history education world, we learned about all the resources available to us as teachers, and we experienced different perspectives coming together for a common cause. In addition to all the benefits we received while at the conference, we also had opportunities to explore the city and experience Atlanta’s historic sites. This was a great opportunity to see history come to life, and we learned particularly about the history of Atlanta and the people who live there. This was one of the main factors that motivated us to travel to Atlanta for the conference. Another important motivator was that we were able to attend the conference for free by volunteering to be tech support for a few hours during the breakout sessions. There are many reasons why we believe pre-service teachers should attend the annual NCHE conference, and it is feasible for students who are excited to take advantage of the opportunity. 
If you are a pre-service teacher, we would highly encourage you to attend next year’s conference in San Antonio, Texas.  If you are not a college student but know of any future teachers who would benefit from this conference, please encourage them to go and help them get there in any way that you can.  We plan on attending again next year, and we hope to see more pre-service teachers benefitting from the experience!

About NCHE

The National Council for History Education provides professional and intellectual leadership to foster an engaged community committed to the teaching, learning, and appreciation of diverse histories.