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Learning to Lead

Late last fall, I was asked by the president of Vermont-NEA (my state's teacher's union, part of the National Education Association) to attend a Women's Leadership Summit -- a training aimed at improving leadership skills of those of us in the rank and file.  The fact that this training was being held in Florida in February sealed the deal...I mean, really...do I need an excuse??

So, on Friday, I found myself waking long before dawn in order to make my way to Orlando for the weekend.  I arrived (along with hundreds of other educators, among other conference attendees) to a warm & humid Florida winter.  It was lovely!  Just being outdoors without a hundreds layers felt so freeing...

This is Winter?

After checking in to both the hotel and the summit, I found my way to (lunch, first and then,) the first workshop: Leadership 101.  Or something like that.  It was a really nice overview of NEA governance (the structure of the national association) and a leadership basics review.  It was also an opportunity to meet fellow educators from all over the eastern half of the United States.  Very quickly, I found myself hanging out with a group that included a high school science teacher from Maine, an elementary teacher from Rhode Island, two teachers from North Carolina, and one from Pennsylvania.  We were an eclectic group, for sure, but definitely could learn from one another!

Friday night, unfortunately, was filled with lots of information-getting...everything from more leadership talk (the summit was a combination of minority & women's leadership programs...so it was quite diverse, actually) to expense-voucher reimbursement 411.  It was a LOT of sitting, after a very long day of travel.

Encouraged by the bright sunshiney warmth of Florida, I woke up extra early in order to squeeze in a quick run.  (Who am I?)  So, without really knowing where I was headed, I laced up my shoes, put on some tunes and hit the streets...very quickly I realized that I was staying just around the corner from where I had stayed the last time I was in Florida!  I also found that my hotel was right across the street from Downtown Disney!  Bonus!  Anyway...I ran into this guy while on my morning run:


Saturday morning was much of the same: more leadership talk -- gender roles in leaderships (positive/negative qualities), how to listen with empathy, etc. (And a LOT more sitting...I was really glad I'd gone out running...)  We also broke into small groups to learn from one another and to learn about endeavors the NEA is undertaking on a national level.  Honestly, I was quite surprised by all that my union is involved with.  It's an impressive list...

Lucky for us, we did get some time to chill on Saturday evening.  So, my little group and I wandered over to Downtown Disney for some shopping, some dinner and some fun!


It was beyond lovely to be out and about long after the sun went down without a winter jacket.  Ahh....is it spring yet?

Sunday morning, both groups gathered for a final activity and to create an "action plan" for ourselves upon our return to our work within the Association.  And, then, I was on my own.  Kristen (from Maine) and I meandered around Downtown Disney some more (and ran into quite a few runners who'd just finished the Disney Princesses Half-Marathon!) and had a little "snack"...

A Midday Snack

Kristen took off to catch her plane, but I still had a few hours to kill, so...I meandered around Downtown Disney some more.  I may not have actually made it to any of the Parks, but the magic of Disney is definitely everywhere.  It was fantastic.  :)

I had an enjoyable lunch people-watching with this as my view:

Downtown Disney View

Which, was a very stark contrast to my dinner-time view while waiting to board my plane in Philadelphia:
Dinner View

Overall, a fantastic weekend filled with learning, meeting new people, and finding a new energy for my work within my local association.  The biggest takeaway:  I've been darn lucky to work in states where my local union has been allowed to be a strong advocate for teachers and our role in education.  It isn't so in other parts of our country...and it definitely makes a big difference.  I tip my hat to those educators who have to fight so much harder for their work...