It's true that new waves of technology make it easier to access information when you need it and however you need it. Need to learn a quick "hack" — simply Google it, right? Given all of these advances, why do teachers still need to pack up, leave the comforts of their classrooms and head to the music education association (MEA) conference? Simply put, it's integral to your growth as an educator.
Beyond the simple transactional value that any conference can provide, there are still many reasons for you to attend your local MEA conference.
Reason 1: Be Part of a Professional Community
Lawyers are part of their bar associations, doctors are part of their medical associations — so why shouldn't music educators be part of their own professional community? As professionals, teachers should allow themselves to grow and evolve. Annual MEA conferences provide that regular opportunity to do just that — to immerse yourself in your professional community and continue to understand what it means to be a professional music educator.
Reason 2: Be in the Room Where it Happens
The sessions are just one aspect of MEA conferences, and while an important one, it's the informal conversations that happen in those rooms, in the hallways outside those rooms and in the exhibit hall that put you in a position to gain access to knowledge, opportunities and experiences that can't be replaced with a simple Google search.
Reason 3: Get One-on-One Coaching
With so much knowledge and experience in one area, MEA conferences provide a valuable opportunity to get one-on-one coaching from some of the finest master teachers around the country. In a webinar, you can't stay after the meeting to ask for clarification. A Google search can't lead you into a conversation that uncovers something else. The back-and-forth dialogs and interactions allow for the generation of ideas and the gaining of insight.
Reason 4: Get Beyond Yourself
MEA conferences also provide an opportunity for you to explore your interests within music education. Concurrent sessions and multiple tracks allow you to learn about new trends or refresh yourself in areas that you need to improve on. Or you could sit in on topics that you do not need now but that may strike an interest down the road. When you search on Google, you're looking for now. When exploring at MEA conferences, you have the opportunity to explore past, present and future.
Reason 5: Own Your MEA Conference Experience
Find a new favorite restaurant and arrange a reunion with a classmate or two who work on the other side of the state. Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in fantastic music. Whatever your motivation, own your MEA conference experience so that it's memorable from a learning perspective and meaningful on a personal level. You will feel refreshed (albeit tired from all the constant activities!) when you go home, and you will be motivated to go to MEA conferences in future years.
Whatever your reason — and hopefully there is more than one reason from my list above that convinces you — attending an MEA conference is an opportunity to grow and better yourself. If you haven't been to a conference yet, take this opportunity to participate in and engage with your professional community and gather the tools and contacts that will make you a better educator and person!