Have you ever wondered what it is like to attend an NEA Representative Assembly? Or maybe even considered being a delegate but weren’t sure quite what to expect? The IEA REPORTER asked Allison Gordon, an ESP member from the Boise Education Association, to share some of her impressions and experiences from the recent RA held in Minnesota.
When I arrived at the first delegate meeting in Minneapolis at an astonishingly early 6:30 a.m., I don’t think I had a proper idea of what would be expected from me, or what my days were going to really look like. Fortified with hotel room coffee and my NEA RA 2018 app (trying to be green!), I settled in for a breakdown of what our daily itinerary would be.
Each day we met in our assigned groups and poured through our new business items and amendments. I really appreciated the ability to have only a few to read and discuss. Getting opinions from the rest of the group before presenting them to the delegates at large was a big help as well. I know this is for expediency’s sake, but I felt a little less overwhelmed, especially once the number of new business items hit 129. Although there were times I felt we had to speed through many of the items, I felt reassured on our positions as a caucus knowing that other delegates had read and reviewed the information. As with Delegate Assembly back home, I did find time while on the floor to more thoroughly read and research some of the items, seeking out the ones that I had issues or questions with.
This is the moment where I reiterate how important it was to have a good rapport with your mentor. Mine was Stacie Aspiazu Johnson, and I was peppering her with questions every few minutes, especially once debate on the floor began. I have always thought the democratic process was an amazing and powerful force and found myself interested in Robert’s Rules of Order when at DA, but this was another level. I can’t even imagine how they kept all the delegates at each microphone organized. The varied and different rules that were applied as people spoke, or suggested amendments, left me a bit in awe and confused. I can’t thank Stacie enough for all the help she gave me through the entire process.
Listening to the debate on the floor was another exciting aspect of RA. Following the Rules of Order, you’re able to hear so many differing points of view. Although we had a few sensitive issues brought up, I was really proud of us on how we respected each other’s opinions. One of the speakers that stood out to me was discussing the conditions of the immigrant children being held in detention camps. She spoke for several minutes in Spanish and then asked how we felt not understanding anything she said. Her premise being that this is how many of those children are feeling right now.
There were so many amazing educators, both certified and classified, who spoke at RA. I will admit that I was blown away by the ESP of the Year, Sherry Shaw from Alaska. Such an amazing person who has gone above and beyond for her students. She talked about how students come to school already weighted down with their experiences at home; carrying their trauma, poverty, insecurities and problems with them every day. It is our job to help them unload that weight. She is an inspiration not just to ESP’s, but to all educators.
Attending the NEA Representative Assembly as a delegate was such an amazing experience. I’m so happy and honored that I was given this opportunity to work with terrific educators from all over the country. Despite the challenges we face, I am more confident than ever that the NEA and IEA are in good hands. Our continued advocacy is critical to the profession and to our student’s future.