I have to admit, it has been a little difficult to write about the CEC convention after looking at pictures of the flooding back in Nashville. With my own camera I took light- and people-filled photos of the Gaylord Opryland identical to those now captured by various news outlets and YouTube clips, showing the water that has overtaken the grounds. It is altogether heartbreaking and so eerie to think that less than two weeks ago, we were all together seeing old friends, making new ones, and having a fantastic time.
I have incredibly fond memories of this year’s conference. I learned so many new things and was introduced to a wide array of opportunities to grow that I had not previously known of. One of the eye-opening presentations that I attended was for and by CEC’s Division of International Special Education and Services (DISES), entitled “Becoming International.” I am embarrassed to say I had no idea that DISES existed before—a good reminder to get the most out of my CEC membership by investigating everything available to me (they didn’t tell me to say that, I promise…).
Listening to the presenters talk about how they were introduced to the world of international research and collaboration—either through university connections, Fulbright scholarships, or overseas teaching positions that bloomed into adventures beyond their expectations—really persuaded me to seek to grow in this arena. I would encourage anyone with a desire to grow professionally while learning about special education practices and research in other parts of the world to learn more about DISES on the CEC Web site and consider membership in this special interest division.
I think it is vital for us as professionals to constantly be in a state of forward motion and growth. There is so much research out there, so many small steps of progress being made, that cumulatively big things are happening and we need to be aware of them. I want to learn about how other countries work with, teach, and include individuals with special needs. The idea that I can someday become an expert in my field and share and learn with others around the world is an exciting thought.
It is wonderful to know that there are so many different opportunities out there—this summer’s co-sponsored international conference in Riga, Latvia, is just one of them. Special education is such a unique career field, and the depth of our potential impact only becomes more and more clear as time goes on. We are catalysts for social change and international partnership and understanding, and each day I understand a little more as to why I was pulled to this place.
My heart goes out to those in Nashville. It is such a shame that a period of time when so much good happened has ended on such a sad note.