While at the CEC Conference & Expo, I attended the Sunshine State Social, which was a party for CEC members from California and Florida. While I’m a California girl now, I grew up in Florida, so this social felt like it was made just for me.* Among the people I met at the social were representatives from Talent Assessment, a reading curriculum researcher, a SELPA director, and a couple CEC chapter heads. We talked about the paths that led to our job choices and our experiences within the field. Overall, it wound up a highly entertaining evening that ended with making new professional acquaintances. In short, I networked.
A popular cliché says, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” When you start job hunting, maybe you stop interview at a career center or search an online job engine and send out applications. Possibly, you take some extra initiative like one of the poster sessions at the CEC Conference’s Student Forum, and feature your curriculum vitae online via Google Docs. Above all, I bet you make it clear to everyone you know that you are looking for a job, from posting on Facebook to sending out mass emails and texts to asking for referrals. Why would you do those things? Because a personal referral helps you stand out above the rest of the applicants. Then, once you’re in your job, knowing people helps you collaborate with your colleagues and get your job done.
It helps to be social as an adult, and this reality is no different for children. When I meet with parents at IEPs to discuss student needs, academic development often gets the most attention; however, assessing student needs includes addressing emotional, social, and behavioral development. These concerns aren’t just for ED children or those with Autism, but all students. How well does your student get along with people in school?
A hot topic for me is social coping skills. How do students handle unpleasant situations? For that matter, how do they handle exciting situations? Social skills are the foundation of one’s ability to be an independent adult. There is nothing more important than teaching children how to simply be around other people – and if you’re the type of teacher who wishes to teach by modeling, then attending conferences is your opportunity to refresh your social skills.
Attending a conference isn’t so different from being the new kid at school. There’s a lot of people and an overwhelming amount of information. You’re all there for the same reason, yet you will at times feel like you stick out. Perhaps you teach a type of classroom no one else does. Or you work with a different group of kids than any others. Or you momentarily have no idea what anyone around you is talking about because special educators are infamous for speaking in acronyms. You’re too young, too old, too similar to the point of copycat, too different to the point of weirdo… the reason doesn’t matter. What matters is how you feel and how you respond. Handle it well, and you’ve got another life lesson to bring it back to your students! So does this mean I might see you in San Antonio for CEC 2013? By all means, go to the social!
*At the social, they gave away pins that looked like a license plate of California and had the letters “CEC” on the plate. I am all about bringing free treats back to my students so they know I was thinking of them while I was gone. I managed a handful of extra pins to adorn everyone’s collars, and even now, two weeks later, some of them are still showing up at school wearing their CEC pin --