Here’s a Keeper: 5 Reasons Why You Should Connect with Facing History

"Teaching Mockingbird" is one of the myriad resources available for free from Facing History.

“Teaching Mockingbird” is one of the resources available for from the nonprofit Facing History.

When you consider all of the educational programs, techniques and strategies you’ve accumulated, which are flashy trends and which are keepers?

In a recent interview, I asked a candidate that same question. Later on the drive home, I found myself still reflecting on the question and considering all of the keepers that I recommend to teachers years after I first learned about them.

So what’s your keeper? As I continue to reflect on that question, the work of the international education nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves rises high on my list of essential resources for social studies teachers in all grade levels.  Here are five reasons why.

1. Its Mission

I want our students to thrive academically, perform well on assessments and graduate high school set for college. But I also want them to be well-prepared for life. Facing History’s mission statement resonates very strongly with the kind of change that I hope social studies brings to students. They seek to “engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.”  I’m pressed to think of more appropriate goals for the social studies.

2. Its Professional Development

Facing History’s professional development reinvigorates teachers and equips them with tools to help become active, responsible decision-makers. As much as I loved my time in the classroom, I remember only too well how the day-to-day of it can wear on you. I also remember how time outside the classroom spent attending great professional development did two important things–it helped ground me again through allowing me to reconnect with why I became a teacher and it pushed my thinking in terms of both content and pedagogy so that I could be the teacher I aspired to be when I returned to the classroom. Facing History designs their professional development to engage adult learners and foster teachers’ intellectual and professional growth, but also to be easily transferrable into middle and high school classrooms. It is well worth missing a day or two (or even three) in the classroom.

3. Being Part of a Network

How many educational trends have you stopped following over the years because you felt unsupported? Facing History’s ongoing support ensures that their PD isn’t a case of one and done.  Once you’ve attended one of the qualifying courses you become part of the Facing History Educator Network. Once you join, you’re eligible for one-on-one coaching as you implement your units and have access to the Facing History lending library of DVDs and class sets of books, unit plans, lessons and study guides. Also, their instruction aligns nicely with the Common Core.

4. Online Learning

Facing History also understands that for teachers, time is a rare and precious commodity. To that end they offer many opportunities for online learning, including webinars, workshops, and full courses.  In fact, despite not having a classroom of my own these days, I’m seriously tempted by the April A New Approach to Teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird” online course for 6-12 ELA, humanities, and history teachers. Thanks to a generous grant, you will only have to pay the $50 registration fee (the deadline to register is April 9, 2015!)

5. It Works. 

I can’t think of too many educational initiatives with a 99% educator approval rating (maybe summer vacation) but that’s the share of teachers who would recommend Facing History’s seminars. There are a lot of studies showing how powerful and effective their work is–here are just a few.

For these reasons, Facing History gets a place in my “Keeper” column.

If you have used FH’s resources in your classroom, what were your impressions? Tell us about them in the comments!

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