April 22, 2014 By Nancy Niemi
Many of us in the Department of Education at UNH recently returned from the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Conference.
Amanda Bozack refers to it as “Disney for Educators” and I think she’s right: over 10,000 educators in one massive convention center – all going to talks, discussions, and paper presentations to learn about things we love. We network with possible new colleagues, even as we seek out our long-standing friends; we hope to say ‘hello’ to a researcher we admire, and we often try to hear two presentations at once, just because there is so much to hear, just a room or two away! There’s also the Exhibit Hall which is – wait for it – full.of.books.only.on.education. When I first went to this exhibit as a graduate student, I bought three bags of half-price books and was in heaven on the train ride home.
It’s not often that one gets to hang out with people who are as excited about your work as you are. There is also not a lot of stratification at this conference. To be sure, one can tell where the big names in research are presenting: the rooms are packed and there are grad students eagerly sitting in the front rows, hanging on the presenter’s words, but the point is, you can actually talk to the ‘big names’ in person. Where else do academics get to be rock stars? And even if, like most us, one is just a rank-and-file professor, the camaraderie generated from the collective belief in the power of education makes attending this event worth it. Media reports decrying the death of public schools, and the horror of schools of education – be damned! There are at least 10,000 people who care very much about children and schools: they were in all in Philadelphia this month.