In this last post, I was going to discuss the great sessions at the CEC 2009 Convention & Expo in Seattle. As I have implored in my other posts, attending a CEC convention is a great way to meet people and see old friends -- luckily everyone wears a name tag so you don’t have to remember names -- but there are great educational sessions as well.
But instead, I am going to write about what I call “the conference within the conference.” My first day at the conference, Wednesday, was spent in one of the preconvention workshops that last all day and go in-depth on a particular issue. As I was leaving my preconvention workshop and heading to see Marlee Matlin speak at the general session, I chatted with a group of teachers who had just received their program guide (a massive undertaking it must be to put one of these together). These attendees felt very overwhelmed about what to do and where to go.
I asked them about their specific interests. One was interested in RTI, one was interested in developmental disabilities, and a third was interested in culturally and linguistically diverse students. I showed them where the session overview by topic area was located and we found, for example, close to 100 sessions on culturally and linguistically diverse students. That gave her the focus she needed to go back to her hotel room and determine her plans for the next three days. The last person in the group was interested in sessions related to paraeducators. I showed her where the strands section of the program was and found a series of presentations and workshops on critical issues affecting the roles of paraeducators. She was set for the rest of the convention.
Knowing about the conference within the conference can give you direction and provide focus so you can make the most out of the experience. I attended many of the strand sessions on RTI and can clearly endorse the strand concept, the knowledge provided, and the ability of the presenters to convey complex and detailed information to a diverse group of attendees. The conference was worth the admission for me through this strand alone.
I have attempted to use the CEC conference in Seattle to describe the benefits one can accrue from professional development workshops. But being at a conference with others who deal with the same types of students is also invaluable. I have appreciated this opportunity and one should avail themselves of the chance to go to a conference such as this whenever possible.
Next year’s convention is in Nashville, Tenn. If you cannot make the national conference, there are numerous state CEC conferences that provide the same camaraderie and knowledge necessary to improve the lives of students with disabilities and gifts and talents. It is truly worth it.