It seems odd to write “Day 60,” it does not seem like it has been sixty days, but it has. Yesterday’s post was day number fifty-nine and it was my fiftieth post. After re-reading it today, I realize it was not my best post. The past several days have been tiring and Tuesday would be no different.
We all have many roles in our lives: husband, father, son, teacher, and others. One of the roles I have is that I am the Communications Liaison for my teachers association. It is part of the National Education Association (NEA). Our association consists of more than 2000 teachers from my school district. The association represents the interests of all teachers by negotiating employment contracts and working with the school administration to help teachers develop and sometimes working with teachers who need help. I grew up in a conservative state and in a conservative family where no one was a union member. When I became a teacher, I had a choice to join. I chose to join and later became active first as a building representative, then a building senator, and finally four years ago I joined the executive board as the Communications Liaison. What I do is maintain the association’s website, e-mail database, and manage all mass e-mail communication with our members. Additionally, I attend all executive board meetings and have a voice in the leadership of our association. I feel connected to what is happening and it enables me to be an active member of the association by contributing. All organizations need people to volunteer their time and lead, sadly it is the same people who volunteer in other roles in their lives that are called on to contribute. There is a saying, ‘if you want something done, give it to someone who is busy and has too much to do,’ it is true, busy people tend to be task and goal oriented and do get it done. Our goal is to empower those members of our organizations who are not active to step up, step in, and get involved in some way.
I chose to be active and it sometimes asks that I give of my time. I had volunteered to attend the Summer Leadership Academy (SLA), organized by the Illinois Education Association (IEA), the state affiliate of the NEA, at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. I signed up for communication school and it turned out to be time well spent. The focus of the ‘school’ was for class members to learn and share how we communicate effectively with our members and our community. One of the frustrating realizations in our group was teachers are a humble group. Teachers become teachers because we all want to make a difference in the life of a child. We are not in it for the money, the fame, or the glory. We simply get satisfaction from the smallest gestures – a handmade card, a note from a student, or a college graduation invitation ten years later. The realization was we – teachers and teachers associations – need to take a larger role in self-promotion. What we realized was school districts and administrators are very effective at promoting (and taking credit for) successes within the school community. Our ‘a-hah’ moment was the teachers association needs to be more effective at promoting the successes of it members. We bounced ideas around the room at how associations could be communicators that are more effective.
The session lasted all morning and we broke for lunch. The scheduled guest speaker for lunch was to be Governor Pat Quinn and his Lt. Governor candidate, Sheila Simon. Unfortunately, the governor was unable to make it, but Sheila Simon attended and spoke. Traditionally, unions ally themselves with the Democratic Party. This year is no different. The association has endorsed Quinn and Simon both democrats, and will support them in the fall election. Her message to our group was about opportunities – Illinois is broke and it desperately needs to reform politically and economically or it will go bankrupt. She told of her experience as a teacher and member of the NEA. She teaches at Southern Illinois University and is the daughter of former Senator Paul Simon. Education funding is an issue in Illinois as it is across the United States. It is a sad commentary on our society where we think nothing of a professional athlete earning $10 million, but we balk at equitably funding our schools and paying educators a living wage. She finished her speech, lunch ended, and we moved on to our afternoon sessions. Communication school resumed and we spent the afternoon discussing effective communication tools – pictures, video, and podcasts. It was interesting, but I had a headache and my knee hurt, so I left and walked back to the hotel.
The IEA had organized and evening event at the Normal Cormbelters minor league baseball game. The Cornbelters get their name from the main agricultural crop grown in the region – also known as the Corn Belt that stretches from eastern Ohio, across Indiana, Illinois and into Iowa. We would have dinner, hamburgers and brats, and enjoy a warm summer evening at the ballpark. I was the only member from my association who attended the game and I had a good time. We had good seats, right behind home plate and I sat down and talked with a teacher I had met earlier in communication school. I bought a scorecard, program, and a card called Baseball Bingo all for the bargain price of $2! I usually keep score, it helps me pay attention to the game, but I had never played baseball bingo. The card had twenty-four events that happen in a game such as a home run, three runs in an inning, and more. The goal was to scratch off each square as it happens and turn the completed card in at the end of the evening for some prize. I am competitive guy and the group I was sitting with bought in to bingo and we heartily competed. It was a good evening watching baseball and enjoying a summer evening. The Cornbelters won 6 to 5, in dramatic fashion with a bases loaded pass ball in the bottom of the tenth inning. It was a good game and ended the evening two events short on my bingo card. We boarded the bus and rode back to the hotel.
It had been a long day and I needed rest. I finished the post for the day and hit the bed. As I lay there, I reflected on the day and the summer so far. It had been a day that counted, not the same as fishing, tubing, but in a different way. Making the days count, one day at a time.