When I first read the title of this post, I immediately thought of educator organizations such as the National Education Association or the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents. Possibly, I thought of these because of their politics which often get media coverage. However, as I continued to read Join Now: Why Teachers Need Professional Organizations, I realized the post was referring to networks of teachers, not just political networks. I think the author is referring to professional growth networks rather than political organizations. However, those teacher organizations with political activities cannot necessarily be ruled out of the category of professional growth networks either.
For instance, the National Education Association, of which I am a member, has afforded me many professional writing and speaking opportunities. The majority of these opportunities have been outside the realm of the NEA’s political activity. However, for the record, I have occasionally also participated in political activity with this organization. Regardless, I do have a professional network within that organization that has contributed to my growth as a leader. This proves my point that just because an organization is politically active does not mean it is not capable of providing professional growth and networking opportunities that are not inherently political.
Many organizations are political but are not as widely known for their political activity. The ASCD and the National Arts Education Association both have political branches within the organizations that advocate for policy that is beneficial to education. However, neither of these ever receive as much media attention as the NEA and like organizations.
As I write this post and reflect on what it means to be part of a professional organization, I cannot help but consider whether it is important to me that an organization have a political arm. For me, it matters. I do prefer to be involved in organizations that are politically involved. I attempt to participate fully in this aspect within these organizations to ensure I am truly represented as a member.
However, I know that the political aspect of a professional network is not appealing to many teachers. There are tons of organizations out there for educators that do not participate in political activity. The author of the Join Now post advocates, as do I , for finding the network or professional organization that meets your needs and aligns with your priorities. Make a list of what you want from a professional organization. Research and talk to colleagues about the pros and cons of these organizations.
While I do believe it is important for teachers to be involved in policy and politically active (another post for another day), I hope that teachers will find a professional network regardless of their personal desires in this matter. For me, there has been no better way for me to learn about advocating for my students than through my professional networks. I am a better teacher because of these networks. I feel much more supported and less isolated than I did as a teacher before becoming involved in professional networks.
Throughout my reflection on professional organizations, I couldn’t help but wonder what other teachers might be thinking on the subject.
So, what do you think about professional networks for teachers? Are they important or necessary? What are the benefits? Are there any negatives? Which organizations are you involved in? Are you looking for a network and have no clue where to start? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Plus, if you do happen to be looking for a network, post your thoughts so we can help point you in the direction of one that might meet your needs!
Amanda Koonlaba is an elementary art teacher in Tupelo, MS. She is a contributor to MSEdBlog. Her views are her own and do not represent the views of any other entity.