On Monday, I will be part of a caravan crossing Pennsylvania en route to the NCEA 2014 Convention and Expo (#NCEA14). This is my fourth NCEA Convention (Philadelphia ’05, Boston ’12, Houston ’13 and now Pittsburgh ’14) and it is the third where I have the privilege to present. On the eve of this busy week, I wanted to share why attending this convention is so meaningful for me.
1) Shared Mission As a teacher in a Catholic school, it is a unique and special opportunity to spend time with others “working in the vineyard.” In March, Pope Francis tweeted his gratitude for Catholic teachers with the words, “Let us thank all those who teach in Catholic schools. Educating is an act of love; it is like giving life.” This followed up his words in November, his first remarks on Catholic Education, when he wrote, “We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data—all treated as being of equal importance—and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment. In response, we need to provide for our students an experience that fosters critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.” How powerful it is to have one convention with its attendees devoted to increasing critical thinking and developing moral values as an act of love! This faith and fervor is perhaps a major reason while the liturgies at NCEA are always so moving.
2) Shared Innovation Catholic schools across the country are laboratories for innovation. NCEA 2014 lends itself to fostering an environment where innovation is championed and shared. The tracks of the convention such as Research, Technology, Governance, and Strategic Planning offer many sessions that herald cutting edge ideas to continue growth in this fast-paced 21st Century. The keynote speakers are Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, a Pittsburgh native, and former chairperson of the NCEA Board of Directors and Dr. Robert Marzano, author of The Art and Science and Teaching. These speakers frame the daily sessions, delivered by cutting-edge Catholic educators from across the country. In these sessions, attendees are certain to find strategies and best practices to benefit students and schools. Innovation does not thrive under a bushel basket, it is best when shared.
3) Shared Friendships The last reason is profoundly personal. At this gathering, I renew relationship with dedicated educators from across the country. From Florida to Nebraska to Texas to California, I can now count on meeting dear friends from across the country at NCEA. In nearly twenty years, the only times I have seen a college friend of mine are at NCEA; not once, but twice. In recent years, some of the professional and personal relationships I have built on line for my professional learning network are cemented at NCEA. That professional connection, leveraged through tweets and comments on blog posts, becomes very real when sharing a laugh or two face-to-face at NCEA. As valuable as the learning is at NCEA, sharing a laugh or two with a friend is just as important.
Whatever your reason for attending #NCEA14, may it bring you both professional and personal joy, and maybe I’ll see you at a session or two.