Here is a list of how joining The Council for Exceptional Children has made a difference in my career:
1. Networking – I attend local, state, and national meetings where I have met lots of different people. The networking with others has led to many opportunities that would not have happened if I hadn’t made an effort to meet others in my field. It is so nice to talk to people who have experienced what I am going through and not to feel alone.
2. Publications – the publications are worth their weight in gold! I have used them for inspiration in my teaching, resources for classes that I have taken, opening discussion with other teachers, research to support grants that I have written, research to support actions used in my teacher evaluations, material to study for the National Board Exam.
3. Professional Development – attending state and national conventions are so rewarding that they are worth the time and money. I have learned new strategies, discussed current issues, debated legislative issues, and been recharged and energized when I returned to my classroom.
4. Legislative Updates – on the website, you can go to the Policy and Advocacy tab to see what the hot topics are as well as what is going on in Congress. There is also a Legislative Action Center that helps you send emails to your legislators about these hot topics. What an exciting and easy way to send letters!
5. Advocacy – I have been involved in the Child and Youth Action Network which enables me to stay abreast of current legislative issues. I have been asked to represent my state by going to Washington DC each year to visit legislators and tell them how it really is in the classroom!
6. Liability Insurance – it is a shame that this has to be something to feel good about but in this day and time, I’ve found out that some kids can just be mean and you can find yourself in situations you never expected. It was nice knowing that I had this $2 million professional liability insurance if I needed it.
7. Discounts – members get a discount on educational materials which is wonderful too! I tend to spend too much when they wave the “discount” flag in front of me!
8. Teacher Evaluations - Many teacher evaluations require a professional goal and joining a professional organization is one way to fulfill this requirement.
9. Career Growth – I started out as a student member in college, and then a professional member after graduation. For a long time I felt like I was “just” a teacher because there were a lot of Directors of Special Ed, Administrators, and University professors very active in this organization. They helped me realize the importance of my job and to help me grow in my career. I have held leadership positions in different organizations because of this growth which has been very fulfilling.
I encourage all teachers, on all levels, to join a professional organization, even if it is not this one. Of course I'm partial to this one, especially since I feel it is appropriate for all teachers. I still feel that teaching should not be stagnant and without growing professionally, we become burned out.