Why You Should Go to a National Convention
by Todd Clement
A National Convention does not sound like a way most people would like to spend part of their summer vacation. I understand but there are some benefits to using 4-5 days of your summer on it.
When I attended my first convention in Las Vegas, I was surprised to find out all the different groups that make up the AFT. I expected a room full of teachers but got a giant room filled with associates, nurses, custodians, college professors, health care professionals, retirees, and government employees along with the pre k-12 teachers. While we started off as a union for teachers, other groups began joining our ranks. This has helped strengthen us as a union. It has also helped broaden our ability to help those in need.
Along with meeting other groups, I have had the chance to meet teachers from across the U.S. and even other countries. It has been sad and comforting, at the same time, to see they have some of the same struggles we have. It is helpful to learn and share with each other what works and what doesn’t when trying to work through these struggles.
The AFT is a powerful group made up of over 1.5 million workers. They have been able to provide books for children (First Book), create a website where teachers are able to share lessons (Share My Lesson), and improve education, healthcare, social services, job training, transportation and more in one of the poorest counties in the U.S., McDowell County, West Virginia. The union is also able to use it’s strength to share our beliefs with politicians. By attending the convention, you are able to help steer the direction our AFT takes. You can suggest philanthropies, make proposals for what the AFT should stand for, or just simply exercise your right to vote on those.
One of the benefits that has helped me the most is developing new ideas for lessons to bring back to my classroom. From talking to other teachers, visiting some educational booths, or seeing videos of educators in action, I have always come home with a few new ideas to use in my classroom.
The convention isn’t all work. It usually runs from 8-5 and you are given 1-2 hour lunch. This gives you a lot of time to explore a new city or re-explore a city you already know. I have had the chance to visit museums in Washington DC, catch a ball game at Fenway Park in Boston, see a concert in Detroit, and play some instruments at the EMP Museum in Seattle. Some of these are cities that I may not have chosen to visit if it wasn’t for the convention.