More than ten years ago, ASCD convened students and educators from around the world to envision the future of education. The result was a collection of flagship policy and practice recommendations known as our Whole Child initiative, and it defines the association’s work to this day. It was successful not because of predetermined outcomes, but because of the coming together of motivated stakeholders with a common purpose. You can see the results in “The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action” (ASCD, 2007).

In an age of connectedness where everyone has a voice, this kind of convening is the true work of membership organizations. Gone are the days of exclusive access to content and experts. Today’s professionals expect to ask their own questions and find their own answers.

Consider these ways our ASCD member groups empower educators through the act of convening:

  • Our annual Leader to Leader conference (L2L) has never been the same event twice, as leaders from ASCD Affiliates, Connected Communities, Professional Interest Communities, Emerging Leaders and Student Chapters programs come together to pursue and inform their own professional learning.
  • Working across countries and cultures, our Gulf Cooperation Council ASCD Connected Community provides a place for educators from Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to share, learn and work together.
  • To open up professional learning to educators at all levels, Maine ASCD is just releasing Whole Child nano- and micro-credentials so that teacher-leaders can customize and personalize their learning on-the-fly and just-in-time. In pursuing this new approach to professional learning, our Maine affiliate is pioneering trails on which its parent organization has yet to embark.
  • To address the need of school districts to support students with mental health concerns, New York State ASCD hosted a Powered by Teach to Lead summit that brought together teams from across the state to learn from one another and generate ready-to-implement solutions. Participants noted they were able to have critical discussions with teammates at this convening that had never happened when their members were busy back in their district.
  • ASCD’s Canadian Communities in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland & Labrador and Ontario have launched a cultural intelligence initiative, to support educators in accommodating the influx of immigrant families in their communities. The most recent development in this work is the launch of a Relationship Based Schools project that champions the importance of social-emotional learning for students.
  • Our Emerging Leaders proposed and won approval for an Alumni ASCD Affiliate where all 400 members of the fraternity can self-organize and contribute to the organization in ways that help to keep it relevant and evolving in the 21st century. This revolutionary hybrid of two different ASCD programs opens up new opportunities for our next generation of leaders to plug into the association.
  • Michigan ASCD just concluded a Teaching to Strengths virtual symposium, connecting ten centers around the state so that teams of teachers learned together and took solutions back to their classrooms for immediate implementation. The focus on trauma-informed practices and interactive technologies modeled a new way to engage the Whole Child.
  • Based in New Providence, Bahamas ASCD works across all of its family islands to bring educators together in a discourse of what is best for children, engaging stakeholders from preservice teachers at the University of the Bahamas to policy leaders at the Ministry of Education, providing a voice for practitioners at all levels across this archipelago nation.
  • To learn more about the needs of the educators they serve, Colorado ASCD held Gallery Gatherings around the state inviting teachers to come out and share their interests and needs with one another through original Ignite presentations. The information gathered from across this state with large urban centers and even larger rural populations continues to inform the affiliate’s work.
  • Florida ASCD has assembled a Bill of Rights for Children that is free to reproduce and share with education stakeholders around the state and beyond. Incorporating the tenets of ASCD’s Whole Child, this declaration is a living document that elevates and advances the dialogue around what is best for children and their families.
  • Pakistan ASCD’s Umair Qureshi and Singapore ASCD’s Tammy Musiowsky bring together educators and ideas in their Ed-Talk Live initiative, featuring ongoing virtual discussions around leadership while creating impact for teacher-leaders. Six topics have already been posted on the project’s YouTube channel, with more to come.
  • To support and engage beginning teachers, Virginia ASCD offers a free membership to all first year teachers in the state to form a New Teacher Network, convening a cohort of support and learning for everyone involved. Through their participation, these new teachers are welcomed as valued members of the educator community.
  • ASCD member groups are building EDAdvantage bundles around high-interest topics, soliciting original articles, videos and tools from practitioners to provide a unique new benefit to their members. The first bundle on School Safety was released March 1st, and the second issue on Trauma-Informed Schools is slated to be released this summer.

Two years ago my office stopped publishing newsletters for leaders of our member groups, replacing them with private Facebook groups where everyone can share questions and ideas in real time as the need arises. Now our leaders interact more directly, immediately and meaningfully…so much so that waiting to hear “news from the mountaintop” seems archaic and unnecessary. Convening doesn’t have to be conveniently scheduled anymore!

The key is to foster a climate and culture that supports grassroots leadership. While ASCD staff can create spaces and opportunities to connect energized educators, it is truly our member groups leading the organization that keeps it vibrant and thriving, as the education landscape continues to evolve ever more quickly.

Walter McKenzie is Senior Director for Constituent Services at ASCD, leading its affiliate, connected community, professional interest community, student chapter and emerging leader programs.

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