You've had the Good, the Bad, and more Good again. I needed a break from the commotion inside my head before I could come up with the Ugly. This conference was definitely intense, and I have so many links and notes to look through so that I can organize everything that I learned. Of course, at my house the best way to get one's head straight is to do the five days of freaking laundry that had spilled over the baskets and onto the floor in my absence. Seriously, did nobody see that? Also, my kids had not touched a bar of soap while I was gone. While I was glad to see them, I knew I had my work cut out for me before I could even get back to my reflections on ISTE 2014.
[caption id="attachment_341" align="aligncenter" width="300"] This is EXACTLY what the laundry pile looked like in my house. I guess if you don't EVER SHOWER it is necessary to change your clothes five times a day.[/caption]
At first, when I wrote the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, I thought I was just capitalizing on a known movie in a cute way. This is usually how I write my race recaps on my running blog, Run away from Trouble. After writing three posts (with more good than bad), I thought about the Ugly, and it turns out that it is much uglier than I imagined in the first place. So, drumroll, please. What is the Ugly?
It is the inability of ISTE to accommodate so many people at the venue. It was the lines and the waiting and the crowds and the lack of everything.
Right now you are saying, What? Seriously? That's all you've got? Just bear with me. I'm going to take you on a bit of a journey, so fasten your seatbelts. If heights dizzy you, close your eyes when I get on my soapbox.
I was horrified when I arrived at ISTE on the first day. The crowds were huge, and the lack of space in all available rooms made it difficult to get into sessions (even ticketed ones) or to get within hearing and sight distance of any of the poster sessions. I had favorited many sessions on my app in order to have many options. I looked at the poster offerings, and I favorited those, too, so that I could remember to find them at the right time. I learned that it didn't matter what I favorited; I would not be able to see any of those presentations.
I also would not be able to go to the bathroom, sit down, drink water, or purchase any food or beverages during a normal meal time. Twenty thousand conference attendees meant long, long lines to get up and down stairs and escalators, get into sessions, and God help us, get into that first awful Keynote. The few times I did try to purchase food and water, I found after standing in a long line that there was none available. I am not exaggerating.
[caption id="attachment_342" align="aligncenter" width="300"] This is EXACTLY how we looked as we tried to pack ourselves into the bathrooms and the sessions. Just kidding. This is the Tokyo subway, of course.[/caption]
I talked to many people about this, and the reactions varied from furious (usually me) to annoyed to resigned. The reaction of resignation is the Ugly in this conference. Why did ISTE believe that it was acceptable to allow twenty thousand attendees when they couldn't accommodate all of those people? I'll tell you why: because it's just teachers. If you are an educator, you know what I'm talking about. There is a horrible culture of teacher bashing in our country, and even in the best of circumstances, teachers get the crumbs of what the corporate world enjoys. In the case of the ISTE conference, we couldn't get crumbs or drops. At some point, ISTE believed that the teachers who paid five hundred bucks to attend and stood in line thirty minutes to buy a bottle of water only to find out that there was no water would simply shrug their shoulders and get on with their day. Many (most) of them did, and that is Ugly.
Would your surgeon have endured a situation where there was no food or water available, even for purchase? Would your lawyer have attended a conference where he had to stand in cattle chutes hoping to get into a session that he reserved ahead of time? What about a judge? Why do we allow this?
The answer is simple: We allow it because we don't want to rock the boat. We play into the teacher-hating by thinking we don't deserve a normal or even great experience. We don't want to anger people, hurt their feelings. You know what hurts? Not being able to go to the bathroom between sessions because the lines are too long. You know what makes me angry? The fact that a bunch of people in suits who took my five hundred dollars couldn't be bothered to have a conversation about whether their conference could accommodate me comfortably or safely.
What can we do about this? Well, for one thing, I have decided to become more vocal. I am mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore. When someone assumes that I deserve nothing because I am a teacher, I will correct that assumption. I will not shrug my shoulders and think, "Oh, well, I'm sure it wasn't his/her fault," because it decidedly IS someone's fault, and that person doesn't care about me or my needs. When a well-known actress and would-be politician accepts money to speak in front of twenty thousand people and WINGS IT (I'm looking at YOU, Ashley Judd), I will not say, "Oh, poor thing. She meant well," because that isn't true. She meant NOTHING because in her views, we were nothing. She is wrong.
We are educators, and guess what? We are consumers, too. We deserve more consideration for our money. Wake up, ISTE.
[caption id="attachment_344" align="aligncenter" width="300"] After this post, you realize that I am the one with the devil horns. We're getting the band back together.[/caption]
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