At My Breaking Point

Unbeknownst to Mr. Eric Patnoudes, he opened up a healing wound today with this tweet:

You can follow the thread here with the link below. There are many comments from teachers who agree with his sentiment. I hope the organizers of these big events are listening/watching.

In January, I made a similar tweet alluding to the exploitation of educators at the expense of large educational outfitters:

I was beginning to heal from the frustration and hurt feelings…and then he ripped the scab off today by reminding me that these large conferences put on by large large educompanies seem to care very little about the teachers who wish to speak and/or attend the conference. It seems mind-boggling to me that a group of people sat in a room and decided it was a good idea to charge a presenter hundreds of dollars to do them a favor. It’s even more ludicrous to know there was a conversation where someone approved charging teachers who had already paid for airfare, hotel, food, uber, et cetera to use a projector and (maybe) the internet. Unreal.

These are the same companies who will claim to support teachers, write about how they provide such an important service, and are under appreciated by society…until it’s time for these companies to make a buck or two. I’m not sure of another job where the very people who are the backbone of the profession are exploited so much (See also: attempting to get your research published in an academic journal…El$evier, for example).

It’s enough to make a person want to give up on bettering oneself in the classroom. Writing from personal experience, it is very defeating to have a message that you feel is important enough to share with other educators, yet, because of greed, you are unable to do so. Why should I continue to try and grow through attending and speaking at these conferences if I’m not even really valued by them? Very frustrating. I’m at my breaking point with them.

So, what’s an educator to do? How can I do my part in attempt to bring about change? Let these companies know how you feel. They certainly aren’t going to see the light out of the kindness of their hearts. They need to know this might impact their bottom line before they’ll make a move. They don’t believe there’s a problem. They need to know how the very people they claim to support really feel. This won’t get better simply by remaining silent. Maybe write an email or tweet at them with one, some, or all of the following questions/sentiments:

  • Why do you charge presenters so much to do you a favor?
  • How can you possibly claim to be for educators when you exclude so many with these prices?
  • I’m not coming anymore until your prices have changed.
  • I won’t retweet or promote any of your literature anymore.
  • I will continue to tell others of this financial malpractice.
  • I will amplify other conferences or methods of receiving professional development that don’t cost me thousands of dollars.

Keep fighting the good fight. If teachers do nothing to show our disgust with this practice, nothing will be done and valuable contributors will remain silent. Furthering education, as a teacher, shouldn’t come with an exorbitant price tag and we’ve got to do something to change that practice.

*I really hope those who can afford to attend these conferences via their own finances or grant money don’t feel targeted with this post. If you can get there and enjoy the conference, more power to you. Keep doing your thing. Teachers are not, and never will be, the enemy.

**I would like to add that the lovely people of the NCSS Psych Community offered to provide a projector and assistance for the NCSS conference. Very generous of them, but teachers should have to rely on this type of help…to use a projector.

6 thoughts on “At My Breaking Point

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  1. Perhaps writing to these companies will help out. More effective might be to simply not respond to their Requests For Proposals and not go to their conferences. It is that simple. They will then either stop offering the conferences, go out of business or change their pricing models. Think about only presenting at conferences in which presenters are either offered: 1) Payment; 2) Free registration; 3) Significantly discounted registration; or 4) At least registration at no higher than the general public would pay. Figure out a way to present without a projector if the conference does not allow you to bring your own (or it is impractical to bring yours) and they want to charge an expensive projection fee.

    Also, very important, if the conference charges large presentation fees consider that most presenters are probably paying the fee because they want to sell you something. Do you want to pay to go to a conference where the objective of the presenters is primarily to sell you something. If not, select a different conference.

    In the interest of full disclosure: I will pay registration fees to attend conferences of organizations I belong to. I will pay a greatly reduced registration fee to present to other organizations. When I present I genuinely want to help my audience, but I also am looking for a few audience members to like my program so much they want to bring me to their organization to speak, and I want photos and testimonials from my programs to use to promote my speaking business.

  2. Gawd, what an a**backward situation we have. Teachers pay to share their knowledge, then turn around and charge other teachers for their lessons and teaching materials on Teachers-Pay-Teachers. There’s something really wrong with this arrangement.

    All I can say is, kudos to Stephen Parker for freely sharing his books on reading instruction.

  3. This really boggles my mind. I’m not promoting here, but my experiences at presenting at regional and national conferences is that most to do not treat the presenters at the conferences well. Most give about $50 or less off the regular attendee price. The biggest exception is SXSW-EDU and SXSW Festival (Interactive, Film, Music). SXSW gives presenters a full attendee badge for presenting. They treat the presenters very well. They allow a single day plus 1 on the day of your presentation. They also provide a green room with refreshments 1 hour before your presentation. Being asked to pay for your own technology is way beyond the pale. We must demand respect or conference promoters will never respect us.

  4. I’ve been on both sides, having organized conferences for a nonprofit and having paid my own way to present at several. I think there are some distinctions worth making:

    1. Nonprofits (ISTE is listed as one) often rely on their major conference each year to set the operating budget. Unless they are highly connected to higher ed or other non profits for continual income, charging something for all conference attendees is rarely avoidable. When I organized, we gave presenters free registration but we could not pay for travel costs.
    2. Following number one, this is not a sustainable way to run an organization. It puts the focus of the conference on landing sponsors and maximizing all dollars coming in, whether it’s from a vendor booth or registrations. As organizations grow and invest more dollars in other programs (rather than reinvesting internally, say) there is more weight placed on the conference to make up the difference.
    3. ISTE, in my opinion, left the “education conference” distinction years ago. The vendor hall is the main attraction. Most of the sessions each year cover the same talking points and it is difficult with so much in one place to have larger-impact discussions. Given their purchase of EdSurge recently, the organization, in my mind, is moving away from a PD organization to a media corporation.

    Smaller, regional organizations with active local affiliates have provided better connections, better learning, and more sustainable models. Because they have a local membership, they have more flexibility in providing significant discounts (or free) registration at events because the membership is the focus, not the event.

    All of this is with a grain of salt because I’m not an ISTE member nor do I have any insight on the inner working. This is just the pattern I’ve seen as small nonprofits hit a niche and grow. As soon as focus moves to the event rather than the members (even if the event is for the members) you’re going to run into identity and focus issues.

  5. Coming from a district which limits who gets reimbursed for which conferences, I can attest to the frustration with having to use personal necessity days (for subs) and then paying for registration, travel, hotel, and food. I have presented at CUE for many years, and I’m thankful that it’s a local conference and that the first presenter’s registration fees are waived. I wanted to go to ISTE this year since it’s in Anaheim (thus, I don’t have to worry about hotel, travel, and food), but even so the registration fees are a bit too much for this public school teacher.

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