On Wednesday, March 29, the Salem County Education Association hosted a World Café with early career members. The event was held at JG Cooks Riverview Inn in Pennsville. Early career members from the education associations of Penns Grove-Carneys Point, Oldmans Township, Lower Alloways Creek, and Salem County Special Services attended along with their county officers, including Salem County Membership Chairperson Wendy Mesogianes and Salem County President Sue Maniglia.
World Café is a process that allows for a group of participants to engage in conversations around a series of questions. Although not the only way to use the process, the questions often focus on imagining the best possible future around an issue and then examining ways to attain that future. Switching from one question to the next, participants “shuffle the deck” by sitting with different groups of individuals. By having participants engage with a variety of others in small groups, it becomes possible to develop an understanding of the wisdom and knowledge of the larger group and develop a plan to move forward. World Café, which is one of many Art of Hosting facilitation methods, is an excellent practice to use when you are trying to examine a specific issue or solve a specific problem.
Salem County’s World Café’s theme was “The ABCs of Membership.” It was facilitated by Colleen Curren, a third-year teacher in the Black Horse Pike Regional School District who serves as secretary of the Black Horse Pike Education Association and also as an NJEA UniServ Consultant. The World Café continued discussions that began at an early career workshop in the fall. Members discussed self-care, how to foster meaningful relationships with colleagues, and how to build professional networks in order to support professional endeavors.
Curren noted a common theme within the conversations. She explained that “the early career members of Salem County all seemed to share the thought that positive and meaningful relationships with colleagues not only have social benefits but also deeply impact our ability to serve our students and reach our professional goals. Both early career and veteran members bring valuable information and experience to the table that can enhance our performance in the field of education.”
Central to any World Café is an understanding of what needs to be documented or recorded in a way that serves the purpose of the meeting or event. In Art of Hosting work, this is known as harvesting. The term harvest is used to invite participants to imagine conclusions beyond the traditional report that is often the way that meetings are captured and recorded. The full harvest from Salem County’s March 29th World Café can be found here on NJEA’s Message Board.
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