The word "association" is derived from the Latin socius, socii, m., which means "ally" or "comrade." While membership in professional associations may look good on a resume and may even provide avenues for ongoing learning, they also provide something else. They are places for us to share the highs and lows unique to our fields or disciplines. They are places where we find true allies as we continue the battle on the front lines.
I recently had the opportunity to make a presentation at the Indiana Foreign Language Teachers Association conference. During that time the Indiana Classical Conference also met, and I was reminded of why belonging to such associations is a good thing.
In a different age, belonging to associations and attending conferences was the norm. It was par for the course. Now, thanks to social media and the Internet, many my find it unnecessary to join professional groups, and we all know that it is increasingly difficult to take off a day from school. Of course, it has always been a challenge to teachers to be absent, and we would often rather teach through pain and illness than create lesson plans, but with shrinking funds to support professional activities, taking time off for a conference is harder than ever.
Yet there is value in the time spent with colleagues who understand your particular challenges and who rejoice with you in your triumphs and those of your students. We come away feeling renewed, re-energized, and supported. We know that we are not alone.
It is also an opportunity for us to discover the rising stars in our disciplines, the new and beginning teachers that we can mentor. I met several at the IFLTA conference that fall into that category. In them I can see that future of Latin instruction in Indiana is in capable hands, and they inspire me with their energy and enthusiasm to think of how we can work together on exciting ventures for students.
Where do you draw your professional support? Are there young teachers you can mentor to lead the way after you?