Comments from RA DelegatesAttending the NEA Representative Assembly is always an invigorating, eye-opening experience. We invited some recent FEA delegates to the RA to talk about their experiences at the annual meeting.
From Doris Moss (Europe)
"As I arrived in Philadelphia this summer to attend the RA, I had no idea what to expect. On the shuttle ride to the hotel, I became even more nervous about the experience. There were teachers from all over the United States and they were talking excitedly about different caucuses, votes, debates, etc. that dealt with educators all over the US. Wow, what had I gotten into? Who was I to decide what was best for education and educators? How many people would be counting on me? My fear of the unknown was only tempered by the excitement of the city of Brotherly Love and knowing so many of my peers had come together in one place for the betterment of education and our union. So, I sat back and enjoyed the sights and gained assurance as I passed the Liberty Bell, surely I could do my part for FEA members.
"Our first meeting took place at the hotel where the FEA members to the RA had our headquarters. There were some familiar faces and even one teacher I had known in the past. Newbies were quickly welcomed into the group. Although, I have to admit that in the beginning everything sounded foreign to me. There were so many new experiences and expectations. Everyday seemed to be filled from dawn to dusk. The Federal members met for the first two days to organize and decide on our vote on a number of issues. Again, I was doubting of my ability to do the job but luckily there were many new friends to help me through the mysteries of the RA.
"Finally, the first day of the RA dawned with excitement and hordes of teachers headed toward the convention center in downtown Philly. Busses spilled out teachers from all over the US and the Federal members. We climbed stairs, rode escalators, fought crowds, accepted pamphlets pushed in our hands, and moved slowly toward the single entrance to the floor of the RA. The sensory experience is beyond words. Music blasting, lights flashing, people greeting friends, balloons flying, and fellow teachers for as far as the eye can see, thousands of teachers getting together, grouped by states in a huge room.
"Will anyone be able to calm this group down? How is anything accomplished I wonder? Then Reg Weaver walked onto the stage and the cheers from the crowd were deafening until he moved to the microphone and the room began to quiet down. His smiling face flashed on giant screens above the convention center floor. The master had arrived and he knew how to run the meeting like he was in a classroom of twenty-five children. I sat in amazement as the work of the RA moved along with precision. We discussed, we voted, we listened to guest speakers, and heard from upcoming presidential candidates. I visited with members from different states, walked by booths selling everything from jewelry to online homework sites, and I met teachers, teachers, teachers. The big picture of being part of a professional union was quite a lesson for me.
"Would I like to go back to the RA in Washington D. C. in 2008? Sure, it is a once in a lifetime experience I recommend to everyone who is a FEA member."
From Sharon Yancey (England)
"My first experience at an RA left me anxious for more. Spending "those long days" at the convention center weren't long at all. The excitement, meeting new people from all around the world, listening and getting to know Reg Weaver, Dennis van Roekel and Lily Eskelsen made the days go by quickly. The learning curve was steep, but the support was tremendous! The experience helped me put more of the pieces together concerning the NEA and the FEA, how the big machine works, and how it impacts my Local. Getting to hear potential presidential candidates was a real bonus--not to mention Richard Dreyfus and his emphatic thoughts on the state of education in the United States. Although I missed my family and our 4th of July traditions, I would attend another RA in a heartbeat!"
From Diane Brown (Fort Bragg)
"I had an awesome time at the 2007 Representative Assembly. It was about so much more than paying your annual membership dues. I truly felt I had a ‘voice'. I was not only able to witness how the Association initiates and impacts change in the educational arena, I was an active participant!"
From Jeanette Ferguson (Japan)
"As an RA delegate for FEA at the NEA Convention I was taken back by the number of educators from across America in one place discussing issues effecting today's teachers and students in the classroom. Being the FRS at a middle school I was able to see the "big picture" of what it means to be part of such an organization working to perfect the educational environment on a local level. The convention put into perspective what our organization does for not only our local school, but schools across America and it made me proud!"