There’s this picture. I had just begun my first year teaching Middle School Art, back in 2000, when my administrator asked who was interested in getting some professional development at the National Middle School Association Conference and Exhibit in St. Louis, I think I was the first person to raise my hand. Road trip! I was so excited about learning how to better reach middle school students and I was really excited about getting to go to some practical sessions to learn new media skills and techniques for the art classroom.
Although I did get to hear Harry Wong speak (highly motivating) and Paul Stookey sing (Peter, Paul and Mary), and although I had a wonderful time with my colleagues (Math, English, Science), I was disappointed to learn that there were no workshops or applicable sessions specifically geared to Middle School Art. I wasn’t interested in returning, but what I was interested in was finding a convention that better matched my field of study.
So, I began asking around and eventually, I was lead to the National Art Education Association Convention. It was in Minneapolis that year. I didn’t know a soul. Didn’t even know about our state’s organization (found out later). But, I signed up and went anyway. It was beyond all of my expectations. My school even paid the way for me to go!
I think the first thing that impressed me was that so many lessons that I thought I had “invented” were being “invented” by others as well. Every stranger I met seemed like an old friend. We laughed, shared stories and had such meaningful conversations. Then there was….(drum roll)…THE VENDOR EXHIBIT! So many freebies and so little time! I think I had to buy an extra suitcase while I was there! Also the sessions were not only enlightening, but practical. I learned so much that I still use today. It was fun to meet new people to see how they dressed and to learn how they teach art. I had found my peeps.
I knew that I wanted to become more involved, so I got involved with my state organization (Tennessee Art Education Association) as well. Next January, I will be signing on as President of TAEA. Funny how a little PD trip to St. Louis can change your life!
As I write this, I’m packing for the NAEA Convention in Boston! I will see my peeps. As a state leader, I will attend Delegates. I will learn new things. I will see old friends. I will meet new friends. I will present my lesson on Altered Books and I will fly back next Sunday exhausted and rejuvenated. What a great way to spend Spring Break…with my peeps.