Professional Learning

Previewing the NAEA National Convention (Ep. 364)

This week is the start of the NAEA National Convention in San Antonio, Texas, and Tim is here with a preview of the event in today’s episode. Listen as he discusses his love of learning and attending conferences, some events he is most looking forward to, and some of the happenings with the AOEU team. He also discusses some tips on how to make the most of your conference experience and how to find value in any type of professional development. Full episode transcript below.

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Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by the Art of Education University, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

This week is the NAEA National Convention, and this year it happens to be in San Antonio, Texas. Now, I don’t think we’ve ever done an episode about the NAEA Convention. I think maybe we did a bonus episode way back when, but we’ve never really focused on the event itself. People have asked me why not? Why don’t you do an episode on NAEA? The simple answer is it’s because most art teachers don’t go. It’s really, really difficult to get away from school, to get approved to be gone, to travel, to pay for everything, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Just the logistics of it are daunting. If you’re someone who can attend and attend regularly, consider yourself very lucky, because there are very few districts that allow their teachers to do that. If you do get to go, and I think it’s incredibly worthwhile, you should jump at the opportunity. If you can do it repeatedly, you should feel very lucky to do so.

All that being said, I decided that this year we are going to do an episode about NAEA. If you’re not going to be there and you don’t want to listen to it, my apologies. I completely understand. If I can just recommend one of our other 350-some episodes in the archives, you can listen to that instead if you really need your Art Ed Radio fix. But I think it’s time for us to focus on NAEA with just a quick 15 or 20 minutes here, talking about what makes it a good experience, how to make the most of that experience, and honestly, how to make the most of any art education conference experience, whether it’s national with NAEA, a local or state conference, a virtual conference, just a PD day, whatever the case may be. There are some tips and tricks that I think apply to almost any PD that you’re doing. Those tips can help you gather and actually use some worthwhile ideas.

As you’re listening to this, I’m about a day away from leaving for San Antonio, and I’m really excited about it. I’m really excited and feeling lucky enough that I’m able to go to NAEA again. I think there’s something special and something incredibly motivational about spending time with rooms and rooms and conference centers full of other art teachers. Art ed conferences, just they provide a chance for you to see incredible presentations, to learn about new topics in art ed, and like I said, find some relevant and worthwhile ideas and bring those back to your classroom.

Now, state conferences are wonderful. Online conferences are incredible, obviously. I love doing NOW. I love the community that we have there. But there’s this energy that comes from being at a big conference, and I think it’s something different when you’re there with 4,000 people at the same time. It’s a very cool thing. It’s neat to know that there are that many people who are excited about art education, who are excited about making themselves and their colleagues better.

I think though, no matter what size of conference or what type of conference, or even just a get together that you’re having with other art teachers, there’s that energy that comes from, I don’t know, I think inspiration and energy that comes from positivity. There’s a lot of inspiration, a lot of energy swirling around a conference. Like I said, it comes from just having a lot of teachers there who love what they do, who are trying to get better at what they do. I think to be able to connect with those teachers in new ways and exciting ways, in memorable ways, is really valuable and really enjoyable.

With all of that sort of on the table, and/or just the idea of the feeling of the conference and how cool it is to be there, I think it’s worth keeping in mind a few ideas or a few tips to make the most of what you’re doing at the conference.

I would say my first tip, the biggest thing is that please don’t try to do everything. There’s no way that you’re going to be able to do all that you want to do, so please don’t try. I would recommend that you focus on a certain topic or a couple of topics that are important to you. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with offerings. There are so many things happening every hour, in so many different places, with so many different people. Really quickly, it can become too much. I think if you try to do it all, it’s been my experience and the experience of a lot of people that I talk to, that your brain just gets overloaded. Honestly, you can end up taking away nothing at all. You can burn yourself out really quickly, and then you’re just exhausted and you’re not yourself, you’re not at your best, and you’re not able to get all the takeaways that you’re looking for.

Step back a little bit, save some of your energy. Like I said, just decide on a couple of topics, a couple of things that interest you or you really want to improve on, or that you think could help your classroom or your students. Focus on those topics as you’re choosing the presentations that you want to attend.

Maybe it’s something about working with advanced students, and you can look for things that are dealing with AP studio art or advanced art-making techniques, or whatever the case may be. Hey, maybe you feel like your kids need some hands-on activities that have to do with social and emotional learning. You can look for those. You can find those. You can find those presentations that apply to whatever topics that work for you.

I would recommend, like I said, just pick one or two, and you should be able to find a ton of presentations sort of approaching that topic that will give you some new ideas, some things that you can take back to your classroom, some things that you can use with your students.

Then when you’ve narrowed things down and you’ve found those presentations that you think are going to be helpful for you, I would say that as you go to those presentations, make sure that you find some takeaways. We’ve talked about this with the NOW conference and with… Honestly, it works for any conference you attend, like I was saying earlier. But I like to find three ideas from each presentation. Those three are one thing I can do immediately, one thing I want to do in the next month, and one thing I want to do in the next year. Something quick and easy to implement that you can do right away. Something that you’d like to do in the near future that maybe is just a couple weeks away. Then one thing that, long term, this would be great for my program, or this would be great for my art room, and figure out how you can implement that in the next year.

When I’m going, obviously I write down more than those three things because there’s going to be a plethora of ideas at every presentation that you go to. But at a minimum, I like to find those three takeaways from each presentation that I attend.

I think, on top of those things that are useful, I think it’s really good to find something that inspires you. Obviously, inspiration comes from all different places. For me, I love seeing the keynote speakers that are usually at NAEA. I love hearing from artists. A lot of times, they do a good job of bringing in local artists to talk about their life, their work, their experience. I really enjoy hearing from those. I usually enjoy going to those keynote presentations.

For other people, they find other things that inspire them. Maybe that is checking out the local galleries and kind of exploring the local art scene wherever it may be. Maybe there’s a museum in the city that you want to check out. Maybe it’s street art. Maybe it’s just exploring things that you haven’t seen or places you haven’t been. All of that can be worthwhile.

I remember, I went to Seattle for NAEA a few years back and just seeing different museums that there was a spectacular experience. Then other times, I think we were in New Orleans and we were walking around because there were rumors of a couple Banksy pieces that were in New Orleans. I was walking around the city and talking to people who lived there and finding those was an incredible experience. It’s different for everyone what they want to check out, what inspires them. But I’m really looking forward to being in San Antonio and seeing what the art scene is all about and going along the River Walk and just seeing all of the art, of the cool, creative things that are there, that are worth exploring. That’s going to be an important part of what I do when I’m there this week. I would encourage you to do the same. Find something that inspires you, follow that, learn from it, and hopefully you’ll have some good experiences to take home.

Okay, another thing that I want to talk about. I have more tips, but just something that popped into my head. We need to chat about everything that we’re doing with AOEU, because I think we’re going to have some kind of cool things happening as we usually do. The AOEU booth, and with all of the other vendor booths, is a really cool place to be. Anybody who’s there, we would love to chat with you. I know I would love to say hi to anybody. Feel free to find me and say hello. I’ll be at the booth a lot. I’ll be around going to a lot of different presentations, exploring everything that’s around. Yeah, like I said, I’d love to chat with you and I think anybody at the booth would love to hear… If you’re an AOEU fan, we’d love to hear any feedback you have about the NOW conference, about pro or flex or grad courses or anything else. If you have questions, we’re happy to answer those if you want to check out curriculum or grad courses or the master’s degree or whatever else. Just come chat with us. We’d love to do that.

We’re also doing some art-making at the AOEU booth. A ton of cool things going on there. That should be a fun experience. We have some good swag. I mean, what is an art conference without swag? We should have some pins, some stickers, some pennants. Then I think there’s some premium stuff, a limited number each day, but I think there’s decks of artistic playing cards, some notebooks, some other cool stuff that that’s going on. Feel free to ask for that. Hopefully, we’ll have enough for everybody.

I think there’s a get together for AOEU grad students, which should be cool. I’m not invited to it, but it sounds like fun. A little bit jealous, but it should be cool for them.

I think maybe the most exciting thing is we’re going to be doing some mystery drops. Amanda and I, mostly Amanda, I’ll give her the credit for this, we have put together some really cool envelopes, these cool packages. They’re these really rainbowy, shimmery, just beautiful envelopes. They’re full of really cool prizes, really cool giveaways, and we’re going to just randomly place them somewhere around the conference every day. We’re very excited about that. I can’t give away what’s inside of them, but it is some great stuff, and we’re really, really excited to hide those all around and give those away.

If you’re going to NAEA and want to find the mystery drops, just kind of keep an eye on Instagram. I’m hoping that I don’t get roped into having to do any reels or stories or anything like that, but I probably will. But if you see us there, we’ll be giving you some clues as to where you can find those mystery drops and when you can find those mystery drops. If you can get your hands on one of those envelopes, they’re going to be great. I’m very excited about that, as you can tell. Just keep an eye out for those. That should be cool.

Like I said though, just a couple more tips that I think can help you make the most of what you’re doing in San Antonio or wherever you may be doing conferences. I think business cards can be really worthwhile. If you don’t have them already, obviously, you’re not going to be able to get them in between listening to this and actually being at the conference, but I think it’s something that that’s good to do as a professional. It’s a little bit of an investment, a little bit of a cost, which isn’t great, and it seems weird to carry them as an art teacher, but I think it’s worthwhile. You can hand those out. Even if you don’t have any though, you can get them from people, you can collect them from people. That can just be a reminder for you to follow up with people. Maybe you shoot them an email to continue a discussion you’re having. Maybe it’s just a reminder to follow them on whatever social media platform you like. Then, like I said, you can continue the conversation.

One thing that that’s helpful is just jotting on the back of your business card, the ones that you receive, what you talked to them about or when you’re going to follow up, or just reminders because I’ve done that before and I’ve come home with 30 business cards, and I’m like, who are these people? I don’t even remember them. Which I eventually get back to it, and I remember those people, but it’d be much easier if I just put notes on it right after I talk to them. Think about that when you’re going to do that.

Another tip I would say is don’t be afraid to chat with people at the vendor booths. They give you time every day to go try out products and talk to different companies and experience different things. There’s a lot of cool things to do there. I know it can seem scary to actually talk to those people, but you can have some really good conversations. If you’re looking for new supplies for your room, talk to the supply companies.

I remember, once upon a time, I was looking for some new pottery wheels for my classroom. I was lucky enough to get some extra budget money and I was going to put in a couple new wheels. Just being able to talk to the companies about what to look for, what I need in my classroom, what my students are going to be trying to do, those people have the expertise to help you with that. It’s probably not going to be pottery wheels, let’s be honest, but maybe you find a new type of pastel that you really love, or maybe you find out that, oh, these acrylic paints are more affordable than you thought. But just kind of have conversations because it can be helpful for you and your classrooms as well.

Then I think one other thing that’s good too, if you’re a fan of a company and say, “Hey, I love what you’re doing. Do you have any free samples for me?” Sometimes that works along with the swag that they’re giving out. If there’s somebody that you want to work with, don’t be afraid to approach people. If you find me and say, “Tim, I want to be on the podcast,” I’ll awkwardly say, “Okay, maybe,” but we can chat and we can see if it’s a fit. Or if you feel like you should be published in an art ed magazine, talk to that magazine about your ideas and what it takes to get published. If you want to be involved, go for that opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask and just see if there are opportunities out there for you to collaborate, to get published, to work with somebody on something. Yeah, you never know if you don’t try. Feel free to reach out, and you usually don’t regret talking to people who are at those vendor booths.

Then I think the biggest and best thing that you can do is just try and meet new teachers when you are there. I think it’s really valuable to be able to create friendships with other art teachers. Find some new colleagues. You probably aren’t going to talk to them super often, but even if you have familiar faces that you see once a year, or maybe you just find somebody new and you have a cool conversation and then you start following them on social media and that conversation can continue throughout the year.

Yeah, don’t be afraid to go to social events. Don’t be afraid to just chat up whoever’s sitting next to you before a presentation starts. Any of that type of stuff. It gives you the opportunity to meet people that you never would otherwise, and you never know what you’re going to get out of those relationships. Don’t be afraid to be social, to find other art teachers because they’re going to be likely interested in some of the similar things that you are. Like I said, the goal of all of this is to help each other, to get better, to build our knowledge, to take ideas back to our classroom. The more opportunities you have to converse, and to share, and to trade ideas, the better off the that we’re all going to be. Don’t be afraid to try and meet some new people, have some new conversations, and just see what comes of it. I think you’ll be happy that you did.

Anyway, we will go ahead and wrap things up there. I’m going to go get packed and get ready to go to San Antonio. Thanks for sticking with me here. I would love to hear any other tips that you may have. Feel free to reach out and let me know if I missed anything big. If you see me this week at NAEA, please stop by and say hi. I would love to talk to you.

Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. We appreciate you listening. As always, we’ll be back next week with Amanda Heyn and Janet Taylor talking about some art teaching myths. That should be a fun one. We’ll talk to you then.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.