Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Professional Organizations

Dear Colleagues,

As the Utah Council of Teachers of English/Language Arts Fall Conference concluded, I couldn't help but reflect upon the value of belonging to professional organizations like UCTE/LA Utah Council of the International Reading Association (UCIRA). I belong to both of these associations as well as our district chapter of the IRA - Jordan Council of the International Reading Association (JCIRA). While in this reflective mood, I am listing why I think it's important to participate in such organizations.

  • They bring together educators at every level - university, primary, and secondary - thus providing an avenue of discourse amongst us. Whether we serve with these individuals on boards or committees or rub shoulders with each other at conferences, all benefit from these experiences. It's important to work together as educators so that we can bridge gaps between research and practice, elementary and secondary worlds, novice and veteran teachers.
  • Professional organizations provide opportunities to share our expertise through serving on boards and committees, presenting at conferences or contributing to journals such as UCTE/LA's Utah English Journal or UCIRA's Utah Journal of Reading and Literacy. (I'm proud to say that two of Jordan District's teachers were recently published in the UEJ: Amy Lavin and Andria Robb of West Jordan High School.)
  • These associations provide professional development opportunities to learn from nationally-known presenters in our fields, awarding-winning authors, and outstanding peers.
  • UCIRA and UCTE/LA recognize educators who lead the way in making literacy an important part of students lives in and out of the classroom. These individuals are honored at conferences and banquets and are monetarily and publicly rewarded for their efforts.
  • These organizations benefit educators and students. Professional development betters teachers which indirectly but effectively benefits students. I am a "graduate" of the Utah Writing Project, class of 1993, and that experience had a tremendous effect upon helping my students and me become better writers.
  • UCTE/LA also sponsors the English Quest Contest for 9-12 grade students. This festival takes place in February and it offers the chance to compete in academics associated with nearly every realm of literacy. It's exciting and it's growing. (For more information go to the following website: http://community.weber.edu/uctela/englishquest.htm.)
  • Service projects to help build literacy opportunities for the under-served are an important part of UCIRA. Local chapters create and participate in service projects for their areas.
Yes, professional organizations provide wide and varied opportunities to serve. In the movie Pearl Harbor, Alec Baldwin's character extols the power of volunteers. There is something about people working together in a common cause, because they want to and not because they have to, that strengthens the participating individuals and the cause itself. America is known for its spirit of volunteerism, and educators personify that spirit. Whether it's extra hours spent before or after school to help one student or hours spent working with like-minded peers in organizations like UCTE/LA, UCIRA or JCIRA, we're engaged in a great work right here on the home front.

Thanks for reading,