NCTE 2011 in Chicago, Baby! Tips for Newbies #ncte11

We are so excited to be able to get to go to Chicago this year for the National Association of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention!  We love Chicago (even though as native Southern Californians we always freeze our buns off) and can’t wait to be going again.

Some of you may be attending NCTE for the first time this year, and I thought I would take a few moments to give some tips to help you get the most out of your conference.

What to Pack

  1. Comfortable shoes.  Most people dress comfortable/business casual, so you can get away with flats.  I highly recommend wearing some sort of comfy flat shoe or boot as you will be walking through large buildings to get to your sessions.  Also, the sessions and events are being held in both the Chicago Hilton and the Palmer House.  Shuttles will be provided.
  2. An empty large rolling bag, or postage, or money for postage.  There will be a TON of FREEBIES throughout the exhibit hall.  Practically every exhibitor wants you to walk away with something they have, so make sure you have room for it.  Plan to walk through the aisles at the exhibit hall gathering everything you can…and we know teachers love the swag!  If you don’t want to pay the extra to have the carry-on back on your plane, plan to go to the postal center at your hotel and send the books and free stuff back home.  Your back will thank you!
  3. Print out a few pages of mailing/return address labels with your name, school, grade level you teach, address, and email address.  This will save you a TON of time when you want to enter a drawing or sign up on a mailing list.  You won’t have to fill out form after form, and instead, can just stick your label on, and keep moving!
  4. Bring a canteen/water bottle if you can.  A sustainable bottle will come in handy, as there are often bottled water fountains where you can fill up.  This can save you $3-6 per bottle of water!
  5. On that same note, you may want to bring a few snacks.  An apple, a bag of pretzels, chocolate, etc.  Try to buy one of these suckers from a vending machine or a vendor (if you can even find one!) and it can cost you a bundle…
  6. Be sure to bring a sweater!  Those conference rooms can get pretty chilly, since the conference center always pumps up the air when there are a lot of people.  A lightweight cardigan will do in a pinch.

The Conference

  1. If you are overly eager or have the time, you can begin to plan your itinerary now.  If you haven’t already taken a look through the convention program (it can be viewed online HERE) I recommend doing so.  This will help you get an idea of some of the speakers, sessions, and more going on, so that you can begin to plan your days.  There is so much going on that you may feel overwhelmed by the pure number of sessions.  It is crucial to realize that you will not get to see/do everything you want, but at least if you plan in advance, you can have a better sense of control, rather than feeling lost or left out!
  2. If you are going to begin planning when you get there, be sure to use the handy planner that NCTE has provided in the convention program.  It is available at the very beginning tab of each day, and has all the times/rooms laid out for you to fill in.  Don’t try to fill every second of every day…be sure to leave time to network, exchange ideas, and VISIT THE EXHIBIT HALL!
  3. Be sure to go to the section get-togethers!  This is a great way to meet up and network with those who teach the same level as you.  The Section Get-Togethers are Thursday, Nov. 17th from 4:30 to 6:00.  The Middle Section Get-Together is at the Chicago Hilton, Ballroom South, Second Floor, and the High School Section Get-Together, featuring Chris Crutcher (Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Chinese Handcuffs, Whale Talk, Ironman) is at the Chicago Hilton, Ballroom North, Second Floor.  Be sure to head over to the Opening Mixer (read: have a drink) from 6:00-6:30pm at the Chicago Hilton Normandy Lounge, Second Floor.
  4. Visit the Exhibit Hall.  There are sooooo many great ideas out there, many of which are being presented for the first time at NCTE.  In the back of the convention program is a tab that says “Exhibitors.”  Be sure to map out the most important booths you would like to see (of course, be sure to stop by and see Secondary Solutions at Booth 151).  A great way to do this is to take a highlighter as you read through descriptions of exhibitors.  Some you know you want to visit, some you want to check out if you have time.  Highlight the “for sure” ones in pink highlights, and the “if you have time” in yellow highlight.  That way, you have a map to follow, rather than wandering aimlessly (not that there is any problem with that–you may even discover something new and wonderful!)  A complete listing of exhibitors by type of product/offering is available HERE.  (Note: In this online version if you want to know more about an exhibitor, simply click on the web address and you will be taken to the exhibitor’s site instantly!) You will also want to pay attention to those booths who are having giveaways and drawings, so that you can enter those.  FREE stuff is always good!

The Exhibit Hall is open 
Friday, November 18th- Noon- 6 p.m.
Saturday, November 19th- 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday, November 20th- 9 a.m.- 1 p.m.

Be sure to plan some exhibit time, otherwise you may get to Sunday and realize you never got to check it out!

If you have other tips, hints, or tricks for getting the most out of your convention, please feel free to comment and share!  Don’t forget to visit Secondary Solutions at BOOTH 151!  We’re giving away two $50 gift cards, free Literature Guides, and more!  For more about us, please visit our website. Hope to see you there!

Thanks for stopping by,