Conventions are so cool. Getting together with a bunch of like-minded people to exchange ideas and experiences? Nothing better. Mix the socializing with some fascinating panels and exhibitors, and you find yourself drinking a pretty satisfying cocktail. That is, if you have a vested interest in the convention’s topic. I won’t say outright what my investment level is in the CARS+ convention, but it is a great opportunity to expose myself to new perspectives. Plus, it was free.
I work as a special education aide in South Los Angeles. It is a sometimes-rewarding, often-frustrating way to scrape out a living. CARS+ (The California Association of Resource Specialists) is an organization that caters to such professionals, throwing an annual conference to further the special education endeavor as a whole. It is two days of raucous fun and riotous mirth. Except it is not.
My only other experience in the convention world is last year’s San Diego Comic Con. On a surface level CARS+ is somewhat similar, logistics-wise; all of the events are separated into various halls, and there is an exhibition center where vendors peddle the wares. The main difference is that there are thousands fewer attendees at CARS+. And they’re all teachers.
Don’t get me wrong. I work with teachers and they are great. I mean, not all of them. Obviously there are of some duds, but that is just true of humans in general. But Christ, can they complain. This is not a new revelation, but when you get a few hundred teachers in one place – especially teachers who actually have a good number of things to complain about – you had better prepare to be assaulted with non-stop whining.
It really challenged the effectiveness of the sessions I attended today. One session was meant to deal with communication with superiors, while another was set to discuss the future of special education. Neither presentation ever really got off the ground, though. The speakers spent most of their time fielding questions about highly specific problems that there are no easy solutions for. And these were not short sessions either; we’re talking 90 minutes minimum. Both men were trying to convey the importance of communication within (and without) the field, so it is interesting that lack of effective communication prevented practical use of the time at hand.
And look at me, complaining just like the rest of them. Well let me hand out one gigantic accolade, which is the choice to host the event at Hotel Irvine in Irvine, CA. It is like living in the lap of luxury. As I write this while sitting on the king-sized bed in my hotel room, I realize it was all worth it. It may not be as fun as Comic Con, but as long as you stick with a few good people nothing is unbearable. Now it’s off to bed to get ready for another full day of people emphatically nodding in agreement with an innocuous statement someone else just made.