Last May, (I think it was May), I took a chance and decided to throw my hat in and wrote a proposal for a presentation for NAEA15 in NOLA. I hadn’t presented at a conference in years, and I don’t know what possessed me to try this time. Tons of art educators also submitted proposals, so I figured my chances were slim. Months went by as we waited patiently to get an email letting us know our proposal had been selected. As luck would have it, mine was.
I’ve been teaching for 8 years now. And, I am sad to say, that this was my first trip to a national conference. I have attended many state conferences over the years (including my college years), but for one reason or another–mostly my kids and lack of funds–traveling out of state just wasn’t in the cards. But this year, I had to, as Tim Gunn–our keynote speaker would say–make it work and get my butt to New Orleans.
I feel so lucky that my family was able to send me over to NOLA. This has been a wonderful experience in my teaching career. In short, I learned a lot, I made new friends, I met some of my internet colleagues, and I had some yummy food.
As with any convention, there are some sessions that are meh, some that are okay, and some great sessions that pumped me up. The topics were relevant or were intriguing enough that I could make it relevant. One that I loved was called “Existentialism and Evocative Design in Teenage Artwork”. The speaker was Jesse Dortzbach. My biggest take-away from that session (albeit not the only thing I am taking from it) was:
INVESTIGATE. GROW. DISCOVER.
I went to tons of sessions about TAB and Choice in the classroom. I sat and soaked it all in, reflecting on my practice, comparing/contrasting what others were doing. After attending Ian Sands’ and Melissa Purtee’s session on choice in the high school classroom, I sat and talked with two teachers for over a half hour about TAB, how I came to use it, and what it looks like in my classroom. One of the teachers was someone I have friended online, so it was nice to finally meet face to face. The other was a gentleman from Chicago. I *think* I helped convince him to take that chance on TAB and move forward to implement it.
This brings me to another great aspect of the National Convention…something I haven’t really experienced at my state convention…and that is meeting people. I met a ton of people. I have been chatting with people for almost 2 years now on Facebook and Twitter, but that’s all it’s been, chatting. They have just been images on my computer screen. It was so nice to finally put real people to their profile pics and twitter handles. I was able to hear voices. I was able to laugh with them, smile with them, share moments with them. I worked and designed a purse with Cassie Stephens, Phyllis Brown and Julie Shields in Tim Gunn’s “Ready, Set, Design: Bringing Design in the Art Classroom” session.
I met my #ArtsEd PLN and tweeted with them. I got to talk face to face with Janine Campbell, one of my partners in crime for #TABChat. I met my TAB colleagues at a drinks meet-up. I gathered with Art Teacher Facebook Group friends for more drinks after that. I could keep going, but I won’t. I’ll stop by saying it was fabulous.
Now, NAEA created an app for the conference. Before the conference, I wasn’t so in love with it. But, once in NOLA, turns out it was good. I used it for all my sessions…never needing my paper catalog. The app had an activity feed where you could post statuses and pictures. It was a bit overwhelming because several people posted waaaaaay too much and some posts would get lost. However, Friday I posted a plea for some dinner company. A couple of ladies replied, and I met up with them and a few more and had a great dinner. We ended the night with a fun walk down Bourbon Street. The next day I met two of them for lunch and we several of us had our final dinner down in the French Quarter.
For me this is huge. When I don’t know people, I am super shy. But, on this trip, I put that aside and just went. I put myself out there. I told myself that I wan’t going to just sit in my hotel room… And I didn’t.
Some lessons I learned as a first timer:
- Wear comfy shoes. And, just because you can walk around in your cowboy boots all day at school…walking around the convention center and NOLA in them is not the same.
- Wear what you want. I was worried about what to bring. I decided that I would bring what I wear to school–jeans and nice shirts. It was perfect.
- The conference hotel isn’t always your best bet. I stayed at a cheaper hotel (Thanks @Hampton). It was closer to the main convention sessions than the Hilton, it was cheaper, and it had free breakfast.
- Business cards were a plus. I am glad I made some. It really made things easy at the end of my session and to give people my info.
- Put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Don’t be afraid to meet up with new people. Don’t just sit by yourself in your hotel. Do stuff!!!
- Say hi and smile! If you see another teacher with that NAEA lanyard…smile at them. Hopefully your happiness will rub off and they will smile back.
One thing I didn’t talk about here was my session. I will be creating a separate post on that. It rocked so hard that it deserves more than a blurb in this post.
All in all, it was an amazing time. Like I said, I am so grateful that my family was able to swing it for me to go. I am already looking forward to hopefully going to Chicago for NAEA16. I guess I best get to saving my milk money.