16 November 2008
Part 1: NCSS, Part 2: Laughter
NCSS. The National Council for the Social Studies holds an annual conference each November. This weekend, Houston hosted this prestigious event. A colleague and I submitted a proposal to present a session at this conference on the topic of integrating technology such as blogs, podcasts, and graphic design into everyday curriculum (In case you are remotely interested, our abstract was as follows: "Combine then with now." Learn to implement a differentiated online learning community to engage your students in history like never before. Welcome to 21st century Social Studies!).
There were over 850 proposals and only 400 spots (each proposal was reviewed by 3 judges). We were selected. Yes! In addition to session presentations, about 1000 posters presentations were in the exhibit hall, with educators manning the booths, so we felt truly honored to be selected.
Despite this honor, we did not present yesterday.
Upon acceptance to this conference, we learned that it would cost us $325 to attend. Per person. That's $650 for us to work for them for one hour. There are no presenter discounts, no scholarships from donors, and all of the resources we use must be paid by us as well. So if we need a screen for a presentation: $20. Projector: $100. You get the point.
Since this is a national conference, educators fly in from all over the country, which means airfare, car rentals, meals, and downtown hotel stays must also be paid for. And who pays? The school districts.
It's no secret that there is serious need for education reform in this country. Calls for higher teacher pay and more money for resources are constantly on the agenda, and I certainly experienced this in the classroom. I didn't have enough textbooks for all of my students last year (nor did the teacher next door) so we often alternated our teaching to accommodate one another.
How inconsistent of educators (and education associations) who clamor for more money! With over 4,000 people expected to attend the conference, the total revenue from participant registration would be at least $1.3 million. That does not count any surcharges on equipment rental or fees received from advertisers.
So Brian and I did not present. Our school would pay for it, but $650
can buy every student in the 6th and 7th grade a novel. Or a field trip. Or two. Tack on an extra $200+ for equipment rental (thank goodness there was no need to fly out to the conference) and the taxpayers are shelling out a pretty penny for two unpaid teachers to tell others about podcasting.
While it may seem small in the long run (the conference was still a success) and it perhaps only hurt me professionally (since it was an honor to be selected and would have been great for the resume; plus it was one of my 101 Things to Do in 1,001 Days), I chose not to present. It was completely against my principles and I could not support what I saw as one of the key problems in education (wasteful spending). Small things are what matter and make up our character. Here's hoping next year's conference in Atlanta will be less expensive.
But it would have been sooooooooooo good for the resume.
Oh well. On a lighter note, here's baby man laughing. Take note of the way his chest moves. Too cute.