Gain a Sense of Connection at the State Leaders Institute
In 2015, I participated for the first time in AACTE’s State Leaders Institute (SLI). In thinking about what I gained from participation, the phrase that comes to mind again and again is a sense of connection.
Psychological research suggests that those who feel consciously connected with others—or with their environment, or with anything that is larger than themselves—tend to be more physically and mentally healthy than others. Perhaps it’s too lofty to suggest that your participation in SLI will improve your overall well-being, but I can testify to several practical benefits!
When you listen to AACTE President/CEO Sharon Robinson’s passion and vision on Sunday morning, and then hear from AACTE staffers on political trends and state and federal policy issues, it will inspire that sense of connection across the broader profession. You will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation not only for the work that AACTE accomplishes on behalf of our state chapters and member institutions, but also for the key contributions that we all make to the collective progress. You will learn how to expand your own connections by writing position statements on issues of critical interest and by building coalitions with other educational organizations in order to effect positive change.
When you attend sessions on strategic planning and advocacy efforts presented by our colleagues from chapters around the country, it will foster in you a sense of connection with other states and chapter leaders. You will learn how others approach topics such as the Every Student Succeeds Act, performance assessment, accreditation, and college- and career-ready standards, thus broadening the network of professionals on whom you can call for support.
When you participate in roundtable discussions about state conference planning, member engagement, funding and dues, and organizational structure, it will allow you to better understand your role as a state chapter leader. You will learn how to access the resources and materials provided by AACTE to support state chapters and enhance your success and effectiveness as a leader.
Will making these new connections improve your health? I’m not sure. But if you are as busy with your institutional responsibilities as I am, then SLI will feel like a “breath of fresh air” in the early summer. It will remind you that staying connected with others can help you make a positive difference in the field of educator preparation.
Anna E. McEwan is dean of the College of Education at the University of Montevallo (AL) and president of the Alabama Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.