Greetings from the CEC 2011 Convention & Expo!
A few years back, I had a professor who went to a CEC convention in Hawaii. She made it sound so fun and suggested we all go to the national convention the following year. When, I wondered, would I really attend a national convention? At the time, just completing papers and making it to student teaching seemed far more important than going to conferences in faraway places.
And now? I am like a teacher at special education Disney World! I have had so much fun learning new things and realizing that the special education world is so much bigger than it sometimes seems in my little classroom. Literally everywhere I turn, I am seeing something new. I am catching up with old friends, but even more importantly, making new ones. Meeting other educators alone is worth the experience of being here, but I have gotten some amazing tips about things to use every day in my classroom!
A few weeks ago, I told my students I was going to Washington, D.C., to help prep them for the three days I would be absent. Every day we’d count down to when I’d leave “so Miss M can learn how to be a better teacher and help us more” (their perceptive words, not mine).
They asked if I’d see “Rock Obama” or Abraham Lincoln (clearly the Presidents’ Day lessons went in one ear and out the other). They wanted to know if I’d get to visit the White House. While I told them that I was sure that President Obama had other things on his agenda besides visiting little old me, I promised them I’d come back with some good ideas to make learning more fun. And wow, have I gotten tons!
As a new teacher, it can be so intimidating, feeling like you know so little. Eventually, you get your balance and you feel like you know so much. Then you come to CEC and the pendulum swings back to realizing there is so much more to learn — but in an exciting way, rather than an intimidating one.
I’m only scratching the tip of the iceberg, but I see so many different ways my career can evolve. Everyone here at CEC started where I am now — in a classroom, just beginning, passionate about helping students with special needs. Some have become directors of special education, or researchers, or authors. Some are still amazing classroom teachers. Being here has given me a chance to see what is possible, not only for my students but for myself as well. It’s great to realize I could make a bigger impact — if that is what I decide to do down the road.
So as my time here winds down, I’m bummed to go home, but more excited to try out what I’ve learned in my time here (and work on achieving the goals I’ve now created for myself). Hopefully I can keep in contact with the people I’ve met as I continue on this special education journey.
I would strongly encourage new teachers to get involved with CEC! Join as a student, or a professional. Attend local conferences, or the national one. It’s such a great feeling to realize that there is a whole organization out there to support and guide you from the beginning of your career onward.
Here’s to hopefully seeing you all in Denver next year!