Education

Reporter’s Notebook

July 06, 2004 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

First-Timers Find NEA Meeting Daunting

For many first-time delegates, the National Education Association’s annual convention can be overwhelming with its milling crowds, enormous Representative Assembly hall, and fast-paced debates.

“It’s quite intimidating,” said Ashley Bettas, a first-timer from Tacoma, Wash. Ms. Bettas said the sheer size of the gathering, which is populated by nearly 9,000 delegates alone, can be disconcerting. Still, she expressed excitement at being here in the nation’s capital in a room where so many people are working together to make decisions that they hope will benefit students nationwide.


Voices

from the NEA’s annual meeting:

NEA President Reg Weaver‘s introduction of Sen. Clinton. (0:35; MP3 format)

Excerpts from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s address at the NEA’s annual meeting. (4:26; MP3 format)

Gloria Buck, 30-year special education teacher, Lapeer Community Schools, Michigan. (1:23; MP3 format)

Coy D. Marquardt, 7th-grade teacher, Iowa City, Iowa, a first-time delegate. (1:15; MP3 format)

Nancy Ruth White, Redlands, Calif., retired 35-year educator and veteran delegate. (1:55; MP3 format)

Barbara Wilson, school librarian, Mineral, Virginia, 21-year NEA member. (1:40; MP3 format)

But other first-timers said that while the July 4-7 meeting was exciting, the novelty could be challenging, particularly if they had not received any kind of orientation to help them navigate the conference. Of the delegates interviewed by Education Week, most attended orientations in their states or at the beginning of the conference, but a few arrived with only a basic outline of what to expect.

“You’re definitely in a hotbed of issues,” said John Gilbert, a first-time delegate from the Salem, Ore., area. He spoke out, despite his initial hesitations, on the main assembly floor during a debate on dues increases, which he was leaning against. “I was scared until I got mad, and then it was easy to get up and speak,” said Mr. Gilbert, who represents 180 custodial workers and felt that he needed to address the issue. “I know when I go back [to my membership], that I’ll have to explain why I made my vote the way I did.”

Overall, first-timers said the get-together was well-run and they were impressed by the democratic structure that provided individuals with the ability to voice crucial concerns. A few, however, noted that logistical and technological limitations made understanding what was happening difficult at times.

For example, some delegates said that ease or difficulty in following the proceedings could depend on where their state organization was positioned in the Washington Convention Center hall. Others said the use of televisions to display amendment changes made it confusing to follow in print. Mr. Gilbert found the Representative Assembly’s discussions and votes a “little too fast.”

All the delegates interviewed acknowledged that one of the most difficult aspects was just keeping up with the business at hand. The language of many bills and amendments placed before the assembly can be difficult to understand, they said, equating the review of amendment revisions to sitting and listening to a lawyer.

Mark Horton, a first-time delegate from Reno, Nev., said he found it easier to get his bearings at the Representative Assembly because he was attending with a mentor who had six years’ experience.

“It would be overwhelming to come here by myself,” he said. “There’s a lot of information coming at you.”

The delegates said they would advise newcomers to request local orientations before attending the national conference, to be prepared to ask questions at the conference itself, and to try to hook up with a mentor who could help filter the vast amount of information.

—Marianne D. Hurst

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: January 18, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Letter to the Editor EdWeek's Most-Read Letters of 2022
Here are this year’s top five Letters to the Editor.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week
Education In Their Own Words Withstanding Trauma, Leading With Honesty, and More: The Education Stories That Stuck With Us
Our journalists highlight why stories on the impact of trauma on schooling and the fallout of the political discourse on race matter to the field.
4 min read
Kladys Castellón prays during a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
Kladys Castellón prays during a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
Billy Calzada/The San Antonio Express-News via AP
Education In Their Own Words Masking, Miscarriages, and Mental Health: The Education Stories That Stuck With Us
Our reporters share the stories they wrote that rose above the fray—and why.
5 min read
Crystal Curtis and her son, Jordan Curtis, outside their home in Plano, Texas. Crystal, a healthcare professional whose son attends school in Plano talks about the challenges of ensuring quality schooling, her discomfort with the state and district’s rollback of mandatory masking, and the complications of raising a Black child in a suburban district as policies shift.
Crystal Curtis and her son, Jordan Curtis, outside their home in Plano, Texas. Crystal, a healthcare professional whose son attends school in Plano talks about the challenges of ensuring quality schooling, her discomfort with the state and district’s rollback of mandatory masking, and the complications of raising a Black child in a suburban district as policies shift.
Allison V. Smith for Education Week