Wednesday, March 23, 2011

To Seattle and back again

Wow my first NAEA conference, I feel like I have experienced an art teacher right of passage. My experience was a bit of a roller coaster of ups and downs, but over all great.

I left my school at lunch on Thursday and took the train up to Seattle. Everything was smooth going till someone in another train car had a medial emergency and we had to stop for the paramedics to show up. We got into Seattle late and I started the walk to the hotel... Seattle is a hilly place...I hadn't realized the entire walk would be uphill. After doing a Little Engine Who Could walk I arrived at the convention center to discover registration had closed before I got there! There would be no party at the EMP for me that night! The #1 thing I was looking forward to!!! Degected I went to the hotel to check in and stupidly I went out looking for food alone, at 8:30pm, downtown...with all these drunk people yelling at me...whhhaaa? oh duh it's St. Patty's Day! So let's just say my first "day" of the conference was a bust.

From then on things got better. The hotel was great, the convention center was a nice location, a lot of the session I attended were informative, I meet interesting people from all over the country and I brought a LOT of free materials back home with me.

At the same time I found the conference overwhelming at many times. The number of sessions going on each hour was amazing but a lot of the descriptions were trying to sound really cerebral and impressive and my brain went to mush trying to sort through them. I attended a few session that were not what I thought they would be. But a few made the whole conference worth it. If I could sum up the top five lessons I learned from going to the conference they would be....

1. Go with someone else. Be able to divided and conquer the sessions, have someone to eat with and meet up with at the end of the day. I defiantly started having more fun when I started hanging out with the other teachers from my district.

2. Look at the session booklet before you go and choose a few you want to do ahead of time! Don't wait till 5 min before the next session is going to start.

3. Take a good camera. Almost all the presentations I went to had powerpoint presentations but no handouts and no blog or place to post their presentation afterward. If you wanted examples of the lesson being presented you needed to take photos of the photos in the powerpoint. My crummy point and shoot could not zoom close enough and the flash was to weak to get good photos during presentations. Very frustrating.

4. If you don't have to fly, and can take unlimited liquids in the trunk of your friend's car, then go work that vendor floor right as they are breaking down for the conference. I got a lot of acrylic paint from vendors who did not want to ship it back and those around me could not fly with the liquids. I haulled home about 5 huge bags of free stuff;)

5. Take time to have some fun. Go try the sample projects at the vendor tables (even if you never will do them in your classroom) chat with someone new, hang out with the other teachers from your district and see a whole new side of them. If you have the time and energy go see the city a bit...they were offering amazing discounts at the art hot spots around town.

Will I go to the conference next year....I'm not sure. The cost of flying to New York and paying for a hotel their seems overwhelming from Oregon. I would want to stay an extra week to see New York as a tourist and therefore would want my husband to join me at some point. I think the cost of the conference itself is totally reasonable and worthwhile!


  1. I've never been, though I always attend my state conference. With it in NY next year, I'd love to go, but I doubt my district would approve it because I'll be retiring in June 2012. And even though NYC is just a few hours away, (an hour's drive plus a 2-1/2 hour train ride), you can bet the hotel will be uber-expensive. I've been to conventions in NYC (union conferences) and could never have attended if the union didn't pay the hotel. But I love an excursion to NYC, know my way around, love it love it love it (though wouldn't want to live there and would NEVER drive a car there - just CRAZY), was actually born in the Bronx.

    Anyhow, your advice for convention goers is all excellent, even for the state conferences. I have a friend who taught a workshop in Seattle, but I'm sure with the zillions offered you probably didn't cross her path.

  2. 1 more thought - the idea of hanging with other teachers from your district is great, IF you are from a district that actually HAS other art teachers. I have always been alone at my state conference, and the best thing ever was teaching a workshop. The people who attended my 1st workshop "adopted" me, invited me to join them at dinner etc, and we've hung out together every year since then. Makes me feel included!!

  3. I loved the NAEA conference in New Orleans back in 08. I went with my group of Art Educations students from my college. We shared rooms (cheeper) and ate out and had a great time. We also split up and divided and conquered. I learned from other teachers to go see the venders when they are taking down the booths and I got a TON of free stuff. In fact, I thought ahead and packed a large duffel bag and folded it inside of my rolling suitcase. So I flew back with 2 bags! HAHAHA And I loved the products that I got to try out and keep the end result. I would love to try to go to New York... But alas... we will see. GLad you had a good time.

  4. I went this year, and the past two. NAEA is absolutely the most incredible professional development an art teacher! Definitely look over your book ahead of time! Also check out the tours, hands on workshops offered. Sometimes those are the most useful. I went to one a couple of years ago when someone recommended the presenter, and it was the BEST session ever! It was adaptive tools for special needs. Also make friends with those who are conference regulars, and make it appoint to find roommates to share the cost of the hotel. Maybe someone else in your district would go with you. AND even better professional development, submit a paper to be a presenter. We present to our students everyday! Get after it girl!

  5. Becca is right! Pack an extra suitcase inside your suitcase and make sure you fly southwest so you don't have to pay for those bags! I flew and checked my bags with my free paint in them. I did have a tag inside the bag saying that it was inspected when I got home, and only one bottle leaked a little. :)