As I pulled away from the gate last Friday at Logan International, my mind raced as I reflected on my 10 days in Boston. The laughter, serious debates, joyful celebrations, bonding, and reflective learning are just a few things that cross my mind as I look back at our 2017 NEA Representative Assembly.
This year’s RA was like many others in that we were inspired to take action, frustrated by our current realities within our profession and our schools, and challenged by our colleagues to understand perspectives and points of view different than our own. We were reminded of our vulnerability as individuals but our strength as individuals to make a difference together and that in unity we find our greatest strength.
What brings 10,000 educators to one place for long 11-12+ hour days? Children. Public Education. AND… the Belief that All Children, regardless of race, ethnicity, economic status, beliefs, and abilities should be welcomed at a great public school that is funded to meet ALL their needs!! Since my first RA in 2003, I have missed just a few annual meetings. This work is so important and is reflective of my core! At the NEA RA, thousands of other educators share the same passions and are there because they too want to roll up their sleeves and take on the big issues.
Some of the articles I read on the RA were not reflective of our collective work. We brought 159 new business items to the floor and through debating most of them at quite some length, determined the work of the NEA for the coming year. We also had an in depth conversation and made decision about where we stand on Charter schools to develop a comprehensive policy statement. Not everyone agreed on all the business at hand and there were times of tension when the vote was so close people asked for a roll call.
Unlike what takes place often in our schools, systems, and profession, as the largest democratic voting body in the United States, I feel the floor always allows for all voices to be heard and ideas/ feelings to be expressed. As a body, WE make the decisions for what our professional organization, the NEA, will stand for, fight for, and create for our kids and our profession.
That leads me to call you to action with me because our work is never finished at the close of the last business session. It is just the beginning so here is what you can do:
- STOP apologizing for speaking up! YOU are an educated, passionate professional who KNOWS what your students and their families actually need! Don’t allow others- who are NOT in your class- make you feel bad for doing what is right for our kids!
- Be the LOUDEST voice and find others who will stand beside you to use their voices! Insist that not only do you need to be heard but your concerns and ideas need to be answered in the best interest of kids.
- Engage in your NEA local and state association activities! Systemic change can and will happen when you are part of the transformation. YOU are the association and the association is only as successful as those willing to engage in the work that needs to be done.
One last thought… as practitioners, we know reflection is important. We also know that action speaks louder than words. So as you reflect and prepare for your classroom and students this summer/fall, reflect and prepare for your profession too!! Reach out to your local and state leaders in YOUR association and commit to action as part of your professional growth, commitment to your students, and dedication to education. Don’t just wish for things to get better, make them better!