Across the country, there are art teachers making final travel arrangements, packing bags, and printing boarding passes in anticipation of the 2016 NAEA National Convention. While many of them are sharing rooms and skimping where they can, most are feeling heartburn, nevertheless, over the money they are spending to travel to Chicago for a few days of professional learning.
It is an unfortunate reality that, although this conference is a professional development opportunity of the highest order, most art teachers (including myself) are left to pay their own way. Some are even left with no option but to use their own personal leave or sick leave to do it.
School system budgets are tight, and ever shrinking it seems. Some are certainly spending money on professional development of one kind or another (I know mine is!), but that rarely means that every teacher who wishes to attend a professional conference is granted support to do so. It’s unfortunate, but I get it. It’s a numbers game. If you help pay for a conference for every teacher, it would cost a small fortune — there are a lot of teachers after all.
Continuing professional learning, however, goes a long way to retain teachers. The ability to gain training, and not that school-wide, same-training-for-everyone-no-matter-what-you-teach training, but training that meets your needs– that kind of training leads to job satisfaction. I challenge the school leaders out there to begin thinking of professional development as a benefit on the order of health insurance and retirement. One that should be built into the compensation package for all teachers. It’s one small step toward showing how much teachers are valued as professionals.
In the meantime, those of us who can will continue scraping together enough money to go to our professional conferences as often as we are able, because we know they are important… And we know, by the end of the conference, we will not regret it one bit.