What a weekend it was for me! I attended the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children (SCCEC) Professional Development Conference in Myrtle Beach, S.C. After school on Thursday, I drove four hours through a deluge that would have impressed Noah. Not the beach weather I was hoping for.
Friday, started early with the President’s Award Breakfast, and then, the rest of the day was spent in breakout sessions. After attending several sessions, I closed out the day by presenting two separate technology sessions, “Apps for the Classroom” and “Social Media for Teachers.” I enjoyed the whole process from developing the presentations to following up with the participants after the presentations.
After the sessions on Friday, I attended the College Bowl, a scholastic bowl format with all questions focusing on special education. I participated in the bowl as a contestant while I was a student at Clemson University. Clemson won for the third year in a row (A streak I am proud to be part of—Go Tigers!).
Saturday was filled with more sessions in the morning and then the Representative Assembly and Executive Board meeting in the afternoon. At the Representative Assembly, I had the honor of being elected Vice President of SCCEC. I am very excited about serving in this position and can’t wait to get started.
Based on my experiences, here are my tips for new teachers attending professional development conferences:
your sessions carefully.
Read the conference program, and look for names you recognize from special education publications. Find out as much as you can about the speakers and what they know about the topic they are speaking on. Make sure they have some level of expertise on the topic.
I had the privilege of presenting two sessions at the conference. If you can present at a conference, I would highly encourage you to do so. Smaller conferences are often looking for presenters. If you don’t want to develop a presentation, many conferences need volunteers, and often, they will offer a discount to the registration for volunteers. If you can’t get involved in any official way, talk to as many people as you can. Sometimes conferences will have a social media account for participants to interact with (Facebook, Twitter). Getting involved lets you make connections with people from your profession that will last after the conference has ended.
- Go to everything.
Many conferences will have socials or meet and greet sessions. These can be great times to get to know respected professionals on a more personal level. The whole purpose of these sessions is for you to build a network of support that will help you as a teacher. Exchange contact information with people you network with and keep in contact with them after the conference.
I hope these tips help you get the most out of any conferences you attend this year. Sometimes traditional, “in-person” professional development conferences have been passed over for other technological options, but the networking connections and personal interactions at a professional development conference cannot be matched. If you don’t have a conference to attend, I highly recommend the CEC Convention and Expo in San Antonio. Maybe you and I will get a chance to meet!
Do any of you have tips for getting the most out of professional development conferences from your experiences? Are you planning to attend CEC’s Convention and Expo?