Nothing has frustrated me more during the past 13 months than not being able to get together in person as much as I have been accustomed. The health risks, regulations, other people’s sensitivities, cancelled events, and stigma attached to personal contact have all contributed to my schedule changing dramatically.
I became concerned at first that I was not accomplishing everything that needed to get done. How could I be productive if I couldn’t meet face-to-face? Which events could be put on hold? How can we change direction because we cannot connect on a regular basis? The pivoting that has been required by schools throughout the country has become commonplace and educators have learned to do it well. Virtual alternatives have been developed and society has become accustomed to “Zoom” connectivity.
What we have REALLY been missing, however, are the affective benefits of physical proximity. There is no replacement for the interaction that is facilitated by seeing a person’s expressions, hearing a laugh, shaking a hand, or observing those “non-verbal” gestures that we were taught are so important. I have discovered that eye contact is only a piece of those non-verbal components and is often deceptive when the rest of the face is hidden by a mask. What was that person REALLY trying to convey with their face? I’ll never know!
It’s time to get back to being together in person. With guidelines, rules, and restrictions still in a state of flux—but gradually loosening—we need to concentrate on the personal touch. Students, educators, and parents all need to be re-connected in as many ways as possible. We need to make conscious decisions to bring people together with meaningful experiences.
We also need to be re-connected with colleagues in ministry. When given the opportunity to attend a conference or other professional gatherings outside of your own building, take advantage of it! Trust that those who are planning such events are taking all precautions for health and safety. Take some bold steps forward, even if you haven’t “been out” for over a year.
Ultimately, I hope you will plan to join some 3000 of your colleagues at the LEA Convocation scheduled for October 6-8, 2022 in Milwaukee. Though the triennial event is 18 months away, there are many ways of preparing for your involvement right now:
- Keep informed at the Convocation web site
- Take a look at the LEA Convocation budget guide and start your planning
- Take advantage of the opportunity to deposit some funds incrementally throughout the next year to reduce or eliminate your costs in 2022
- Save at least $65.00 by combining your LEA membership and convocation registration costs in an installment plan
You will find that the more steps you take to look ahead, the more satisfaction you will feel in working through the next phase of the “COVID era.” We all look forward to being TOGETHER again as soon as possible.
Jonathan C. Laabs, EdD
LEA Executive Director