The Blog

Guest Blogger Jacqulla (Angel) Payne: Workshops Refresh and Inspire

This is the sixth time that I have attended the National Education Association's Representative Assembly, and each has proven to be an amazing experience being part of such a large assembly of educators - nearly 10,000!  Each time I have attended the RA, I've attended the Joint Women & Minority Issues pre-conference which begins two days before the RA.  They always have empowering keynote speakers and workshops that provide useful information, and this year I was not disappointed.

From their list of many workshops two stood out for me, which I've actually taken at a Region 3 Leadership Conference before.  It always amazes me how retaking some workshops actually makes the previous information more clear, or offers additional information which was not offered at the previous trainings, which was the case for me this time.  

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Guest Blogger: Jacquella (Angel) Payne describes a "Call to Action"

Denver Convention CenterWhat Does a Call to Action Look Like? A call to action looks like NEA's annual Representative Assembly where more than 8,000 educators from 51 states show up to take action on behalf of students across the country.  A group of dedicated people who were willing to drop everything and converge on Denver, Colorado, which is where the RA is taking place this year.  Willing to stand in long lines while waiting to get checked into their hotels.  Willing to miss spending the 4th of July with their family and friends.

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Guest Blogger: Corey Penrose reflects on anti-union Supreme Court decision

The news finally pushed to my phone on the bus to the airport. News I was dreading. The Harris v. Quinn decision, the potential destruction of advocacy, one more cut into the flesh of a proud and noble profession.

In my imagination I wondered: What would the RA look like if, as politico.com predicted, the Supreme Court would use the nuclear option and decimate the funding of CTA?

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Guest Blogger: Gretel Liana Rodriguez describes her experiences as a novice NEA RA attendee

Gretel Liane Rodriguez This is my third NEA Representative Assembly, and I am as excited to be here as if it were my first! My first RA was in Washington, D.C., and I think that is the best place to attend the RA for the first time. I traveled all alone and didn’t know anyone that year. I have seven friends traveling with me this year, and I am rooming with two of them. I had to beg to find a roommate my first year. Luckily, a veteran took me under her wing. 

There is one true fact about the RA: Everyone is so friendly and kind to “newbies.” You feel loved and cared for – so Shout Out if you are new so that others can help you.

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NEA RA Delegates Kick Off 2013 Business Meeting

As the 2013 NEA Representative Assembly kicked off today, nearly 10,000 attendees from all over the U.S.—of which more than 1,000 are from California—tackled important business after an energetic welcome to the four-day Atlanta, Georgia conference.

During NEA President Dennis Van Roekel’s keynote speech, the association launched its Raise Your Hand Campaign urging delegates to take on leadership roles, fight for social justice and work together to create positive change for students.

New Business Items were also a focal point of the agenda.

CTA President Dean Vogel speaks to the Representative Assembly

CTA President Dean Vogel speaks to the Representative Assembly

CTA President Dean Vogel spoke on behalf of the delegation in support of New Business Item 3, which CTA had submitted. With this NBI, the “NEA calls for a moratorium on using the outcome of the tests associated width the Common Core standards, except to inform instruction, until states and districts have worked width educators to create authentic, locally-developed curriculum, assessments and professional development related to the Common Core.”

“Everybody’s tired of this testing nonsense and people are waiting for a voice to tell them the truth… and that voice is the National Education Association’s and the time is NOW,” said Vogel to a cheering crowd of delegates supporting the NBI. The Rep Assembly adopted NBI 3.

The business continues tomorrow at 10 a.m. on the 4th of July holiday. The CTA caucus will convene at 7:00 a.m. Look for an update on tomorrow’s business and stay connected to our Facebook page to view pictures and posts directly from delegates on the floor. You can also follow the event on Twitter by using the hashtag #NEARA13.

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NEA RA: Diary of a first-time delegate - Day 5

The Last RA By Reagan Duncan

I entered the convention center width heavy heart,  knowing that this was the last day. Today I'd have to say goodbye to new friends I'd made, hoping that I would get to see them again, but not really knowing if I would. I trudged slowly to my section, looking for the familiar blue seat cover labeled Minnesota(my state contact).

I can't emphasize enough what an eye opening and just plain fantastic learning experience it has been. Dennis Van Roekel begins the meeting and I am hit width the realization that this is it! This enormous body representing over 3 million members has convened to pass resolutions and New Business Items (NBI) and make amendments that can help change the face of education at a national level. I feel empowered and have a renewed sense of hope for education.

I made my way to the Minnesota section for the last time, delivered my state's info, shared hugs and well wishes, hoping we'd be paired again next year.

Though saddened by these goodbyes, I knew the day would be a great one. Not only was the the National Teacher of the Year (from California no less!) going to speak, but President Obama himself had scheduled a call width us!

The debate over NBIs began to fly by. I am so very proud to be a California delegate, the state that puts in the majority of NBIs. The passion of our delegation is demonstrated every day as we defend the rights of our disenfranchised students. We stand up and ask all NEA delegates to take consideration of issues such as anti-gay bullying, underhanded segregation, discrimination based on language, dialect, race or sexual orientation. The importance of issues facing our students and profession are at the forefront of all dialogue. Some business items are passed, some are not. This is the beauty of democracy. Each individual has a voice and I am living it!

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NEA RA: Diary of a first-time delegate - Day 4

State contact fun! By Reagan Duncan

Still going strong! After entering the floor today I got right to work. My one big job each day as state contact is to take California's tracking sheet on our positions to the state I've been assigned.

This morning, like every RA morning, I searched for my contacts from Minnesota to share our information. This time they had many questions, almost none of which I could answer myself! So...I got to do some super sleuthing work, kinda fun! I sought out board members, makers of motions and New Business Items (NBI).

Though it might sound mundane, it was actually quite an experience. I was able to meet some new people and came to understand some of the NBIs in much more detail. It actually clarified many things that I didn't even realize I myself needed clarification on!

For those of you that may have wondered how you could get more involved in the RA, volunteer as state contact. You'll make new friends as well as learn about what happens behind the scenes and between the states. Even better, you'll have a totally legitimate reason to get out of your seat!

I now have 2 new friends in the great state of Minnesota, Bill and Cheri Kunshier. I thank them for their hospitality and for their patience in helping a newbie like me learn the ropes!

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Love on display on the NEA RA floor

Through a point of personal privilege on the NEA RA floor today, Robert Hill of Ventura, CTA's Education Support Professional of Year, proposed to CTA Retired member Sharon Iverson of Long Beach.

Robert said he wanted to propose here at the RA because both he and Sharon consider the entire delegation their family and wanted to share this special moment width them.

After a prolonged standing ovation and loud cheers, Sharon said, "yes!"

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NEA RA: Diary of a first-time delegate - Day 3

First-time delegate Reagan Duncan meets her state contacts from Minnesota

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Making America a More Perfect Union

This morning, NEA Executive Director John Stocks gave a moving speech to the NEA RA, lauding the accomplishments of "social justice patriots" and reminding all of us to demand a more perfect union. Below is an excerpt:

Our American DNA is embedded width a profound sense of possibility, an unshakable belief in a better tomorrow, an abiding faith that the American Dream is not only real, but a belief that there are many Americans who are willing to ensure that it’s truly accessible for everyone.

Too often we overlook the part of our national portrait that celebrates those Americans who are driven by their conscience to make America a more perfect union, those who are constantly urging America to live up to its promise of equal opportunity and justice for all.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said that to be “divinely dissatisfied” width America is to love America. I agree width him. I have a name for people who are divinely dissatisfied width America, yet love America’s promise.

I call them social justice patriots.

I have tremendous faith that we as a nation will continue to progress because of the social justice patriots who valiantly fight every day to make America live up to its promise. Social justice patriots challenge our present in order to forge a better future for all of us.

Let me give you an example:

The Declaration of Independence contains the aspirational phrase that we are "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." But we know that phrase is woefully inadequate to capture our glorious diversity and our society doesn't always guarantee equality.

Every time we challenge ourselves to broaden the inclusiveness of that phrase, we are actually engaging in the patriotic act of making America a more perfect union. And for me, a “more perfect union” means making America a more just society.

I have a deep reverence for NEA members. You’ve played a huge role in fostering social justice patriotism throughout American history. Not only have educators instructed each generation about the core principles upon which America was founded, but you have, in many instances, acted as the conscience of the nation we love.

It was educators, through this Association, who sought funds for the education of freed slaves and their children after the Civil War, who spoke out against the treatment of Native American children in government schools, who supported a woman’s right to vote.

It was educators, through this Association, who spoke out against the internment of Japanese-American children and their families.

It was educators, through this Association, who demanded equal educational opportunity for children width disabilities.

It was educators, through this Association, who challenged the absurdity that Spanish-speaking children were incapable of learning like other children.

It was educators, through the American Teachers Association, and then the National Education Association, who opposed the segregation of Black children in schools that were inherently unequal.

It was educators, through this Association, who took a stand to support equal treatment for same-sex couples.

We have every right to be proud, both of our Association and of our country. That doesn’t mean that we’ve always arrived at these proud moments easily as an association. We wrestled width these issues as an association, and we came down on the right side of history.

Adrienne Rich, an American poet, said: “A patriot is one who wrestles for the soul of her country as she wrestles for her own being.”

So in thinking about being a social justice patriot, we must not only think about challenging our country to be better, but we must also challenge ourselves as individuals to do better. Are we fulfilling our American calling to stand up for the rights of others?

Are we doing enough to honor our core values of Democracy, Equal Opportunity, and A Just Society?

I see breathtaking examples of NEA members educating America in order to make a more perfect union. And we should celebrate them, but we have more to do.

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