I've been blessed to go & present at NAEA twice, Fort Worth & San Diego. I had the time of my life. There is nothing like being around thousands of like minded individuals who love art, love teaching, and love life! However, I'm a husband & father. I am the only source of income for my family. That requires me to make choices in life for what is best for the family...and not just myself. I know there are others of you out there that are in the same boat as me....and look at the online photos & stories wishing you could be there also. I GET IT!!!
So...what can you do instead to bring a bit of the experience to your life?
CONNECTION!!! I think the most impactful (is that a word?) thing about conference is the connection with other art educators. Many of us are the only ones in our building, and we do not have the opportunity to hang out, bounce ideas off of, and learn from other people that are doing the same thing we are doing. I'm fortunate to be in a large school district that has over 140 art teachers K-12. I'm also extremely fortunate to have 5 professional days a year that I can use for workshops, conferences, or to go observe others. I know that is not the case for many. If you have a similar situation, do your best to use those days you've been given. If you don't have the luxury of professional days...meet after hours! I know it is cutting into your time, but the connection is worth it in the long run! If meeting up in person is just too challenging for your situation...try the online communities that are out there! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogs....there are so many great resources out there to connect & share with other art educators.
CLASSES/SESSIONS!!! NAEA allows you to have the amazing opportunity to select from a HUNDREDS of classes/sessions! You can truly find anything & everything art and art ed related. Your state association also offers opportunities for classes, lectures, and sessions that will help grow your skill set, feed your artist soul, and allow for you to connect with others. Local gallerias, museums, and artist groups often host classes as well. You just have to know where to look. You can also find summer workshops! Make it a destination/vacation event. I know a blogger that is putting on his 2nd annual summer workshop at the end of June!!! :) ha ha I had 15 teachers from 5 states last summer attend my three day workshop....WE HAD SO MUCH FUN....and learned a lot from each other. Also the ever popular Cassie Stephens is having her summer workshop with some other art teachers....and I know they had a great time last summer as well!!
Can you totally get the NAEA experience without going...not exactly. I highly recommend going to the NAEA Conference at least once in their life!!!! It really is an amazing experience. However, you experience some of the things that are at the core of NAEA if you make the effort!!