Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Empowerment and Validation NAEA 2016

Hello everyone!  I've been missing!  It has been a whirlwind few weeks, prepping for and attending the 2016 NAEA National Convention in Chicago, where I was a presenter for two workshops, attended various workshops and speakers, connected with old and new friends, ate some good food, organized a pajama party photo shoot, participated in some silliness, saw some sights, visited a museum, took some pictures, lost and found my camera, lost and found my fitness tracker, tired myself out, and finally came home with a LOT to share.  The photo below is a taste of one of the sillier moments: a pajama party/photo shoot!
Attending a convention with a diverse collection of 5000 like-minded people can be an opportunity to turn your world on it's side.  (Does that make sense?  Can you be BOTH diverse and like-minded?)
Having your world flipped and stretching your brain can be an incredible and sometimes even life-changing experience.  If you attended the convention, I hope you had your brain stretched a bit and your world flipped at least a little! 
So - the title of this post is Empowerment and Validation, and I need to use a part of my own conference experience to share why.  One of the workshops I presented was about using papier-mache.  I figured I'd be in a typical workshop room, and have maybe 30 or 40 attendees.  So, when I found myself presenting in a small auditorium, kind of a lecture hall, with a podium and a microphone, and at least 200 people in the room, the panic set in.  Here's a pic of part the crowd that attended.  Not seen in this photo are the 20 or more people sitting on the floor along the wall, on both sides.  That's me with the silver and blue hair; to my right is a sign language interpreter!
At first, I kind of felt isolated like this pic below (that's me in the middle, all alone, taking the photo).  I had expected and prepared for an intimate workshop.
But I ditched the podium and mic, flipped on my PowerPoint of images, and shouted "CAN YOU HEAR ME IN THE BACK???"  And they could, so that's the way it went, for the next 45 or so minutes.  The time swooped by and *poof * it was done. 
 For the rest of the conference, I was randomly approached by people who had been in the workshop, each one of them telling me how the workshop had impacted them.

For example: "I haven't done papier-mache since 1994 and I'm retiring in 2 years, but I'm ready to try it out again when I get back to school!" 
Or "I'm a new teacher and I thought papier-mache was unmanageable in my classroom but now I'm sure that I can handle it!" 
Or "The last time I did papier-mache with my students, everything was a disaster.  Now I think I can be successful!"
All I can say is WOW!!  It is beyond humbling to know that I have empowered so many to be able to do something they didn't think they could. And it validates, for me, the worth of the effort that goes in to preparing a workshop, assembling the necessary materials, and giving up your personal time to both prepare and to present.  It is an uplifting experience.
So - I'm curious: what experiences in life have you had that have empowered you to have the confidence to try something that you didn't think you could do?  If you attended the conference, did you have experiences that made you feel empowered?
And how about validation? I often found, during my teaching career, that I received the best validation from the words and actions of my students.  I know that many of you do not receive the validation from your administrations and school boards that you would like; I, on the other hand, admit that I have been lucky in that regard.

We all need an occasional pat on the back, someone to tell us we have done a good job.  Receiving validation and feeling empowered are essential for a confident teacher to be successful.  When, for example, your budget has been cut, or you don't have a classroom or the necessary supplies, or your schedule is insane, or you and your program are being constantly undermined, where do you go to receive the validation you need to be confident about your success?  Certainly, one such place to go is somewhere that like-minded people, who will understand your challenges, gather.  It can be in a place such as the lively Art Teacher group on Facebook, or some twitter chats, or elsewhere on social media.  But in my opinion, nothing beats the experience of physically being in the presence of these like-minded people.  For me, attending the national convention or my state convention (and also being a presenter) provides the validation that makes the process of preparing, and the monetary expense (I pay my own way) worth every bit of effort and every dime.  You will see me at these conventions again next year! 


  1. How exciting for you! Looks like you had a wonderful time.

    1. Yes, Janis. It was, as always, a whirlwind. So much to see and do, and so much that I missed, too!

  2. Yay! Well said! Great words that we all need no matter what we are doing,