It’s been roughly two weeks since #CUE19 and I have only JUST had time to revisit (and REALLY synthesize) my experience that was Spring CUE! When colleagues ask how my conference was, I tell them that it is one of the larger conferences that I’ve been too and while it was all the things that have already been said about it – amazing, fun, exciting, innovative, and filled with real-life connections (both in the curricular sense and through meeting members of my PLN in real life) – it was also intimidating and slightly overwhelming as someone #New2CUE.

So, here are some lessons learned from one CUE-bie to the next.

1. OVER-PLAN – but realize you probably won’t make it to everything on your list. My teacher bestie/co-presenter and I planned out our entire weekend (Thursday-Saturday) with every session, meet-up, and outing that we planned to partake in. We had events that overlapped and were happening concurrently, if not one right after the other. On Thursday night alone, we had four events we had planned on going to – we only made it to two of them. Similarly with the sessions we had planned on going to, we ended up relishing our “down time” in the hallways and connecting with our people in the interim that we didn’t make it to all the sessions (oops.) And that’s ok!

Cate Tolnai at CUE
Spending time in the hallways and main concourse, talking with friends and running into CUE rockstars like Cate Tolnai

2. ARRIVE EARLY TO SESSIONS. We arrived ON TIME to our first session on Thursday and walked into a full room. We managed to squeeze in (literally, behind a partitioned wall where we couldn’t even see the speaker) and sit through most of the session…until the lower half of our bodies went numb and we had to hobble out. If you’re going to a session, make sure to arrive early. You don’t want to have to find a seat on the floor (which we later found out was a CUE “no-no” and fire code issue).

Susan Stewart at CUE

3. TAKE-IN THE POSTER SESSIONS. I really enjoyed the poster-sessions that I got to see at this year’s conference – especially the K-2 strand. I had the opportunity to hear from Susan Stewart (someone I follow avidly on Twitter) and ask questions in a more personal setting. The fact that the poster sessions were “themed” was just icing on the cake – I would LOVE to see this again next year!

4. DO THINGS THAT SCARE YOU. I’m an introvert – a home body. I don’t like big crowds of people I don’t know. But I pushed myself to NOT be like that for the three days I spent in Palm Springs. I went to meet-ups. I talked with new people. I was the first to introduce myself in a new setting. I asked questions and engaged, rather than passively stand by. I went to IHOP at 1am with CUE strangers. And it was probably one of the better parts of my CUE experience. I had the opportunity to connect with educators from across the state and see that I wasn’t alone in my experience.

Presenters at the Hilton

5. PLAN FOR THE WORST BUT HOPE FOR THE BEST. Angela and I presented early on Saturday morning. We forwent going out to karaoke and any other shenanigans in lieu of going over our presentation for the hundredth time and putting ourselves a little more at ease for our first-ever Spring CUE presentation. We arrived at the Hilton early and were prepared to have a long fight with the AV equipment. But we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly we were able to set up. We only had to call the AV tech ONCE and he was very kind – he even volunteered to bring us up coffee! Our session went surprisingly smooth and from the feedback on the survey we gave, attendees were generally appreciative of all the tools we introduced! We also had an angel come to support us – Nora Trentacoste from TextHelp! She was able to help troubleshoot (with one of the tools we were presenting on – Read&Write) while we were presenting and getting educators connected – this helped immensely. So, if you’re presenting…and you have connections, make sure to work them! It was a blessing to have Nora there to help out.

6. GO OFF-STRIP. While my colleagues ended up booking rooms at hotels that were exorbitantly priced that were near “the strip” that is Palm Springs, I booked at a boutique hotel that was only a 5-minute drive from the convention center. The hotel literally had 8 guest rooms – each one came with a front and rear patio, easy access to the (heated, 24-hour) pool, a full kitchen, one of those fancy showers, and one of the comfiest beds that I have ever slept on. The manager/owner of the hotel gave all of the guests his personal cell phone number in case we needed anything. And, we got a stocked fridge (daily) with pastries, orange juice, water, yogurt…and a complimentary bottle of wine. I LOVED this place! It was cheaper than the other hotels and I felt like I had a more personalized hotel-staying experience – something you really appreciate after a long day of Spring CUE!

Hotel in Palm Springs
The view from the front of the boutique hotel I stayed in – what a view to start the day in Palm Springs!
Jon Corippo at Membership Booth
Hanging out at the membership booth with the legend himself, Jon Corippo

7. VOLUNTEER. One way I got talking to people was working the Membership Booth with Angela early Friday morning. Despite the fact that it was 8am, we had dozens of people coming up to the booth to say hello, asking about CUE membership, and grabbing some #CUEswag. (We also had some amazing St. Patrick’s Day goodies – woot woot!) Volunteer. Not only does it get you a free ticket into CUE (if you volunteer at least 6 hours), but it also gives you the opportunity to talk to everyone and anyone who’s coming up to you at the booth, sign-in, or at the doors to sessions.

8. HIT THAT STICKER SWAP. On a whim, we signed up to participate in the #SuperMuch Sticker Swap – and it was so much fun! Not only did we have the chance to talk to attendees who randomly came by, but we also mingled with peers that we’d only spoken to via Twitter – and finally had the opportunity to meet and greet IRL. I also fan-girled a little bit when I saw Marlena Hebern sitting at a table, ready to chat – so I approached her and gushed about how I bought a second copy of her and Jon’s book from the CUE Gear Store. Take in the sticker swap – if not for the chance to hang out with some really cool people, than for all the amazing stickers you’ll walk away with.

Sticker Swap Booth
Where all the cool peeps are at – the #SuperMuch Sticker Swap! Got to hang with friends from IACUE and SGVCUE
Hanging with the other CUE Social Media Champs – podcast duo My Tech Toolbelt (Shannon Tabaldo and Brenda Argano)
CUE Gear Store Books
New books from the CUE Gear Store – Premium CUE Members were able to snag these for $10 a piece!

9. GET THAT PREMIUM MEMBERSHIP! So, if there was one thing I can say to sway you to upgrade to a premium membership, it’s this – $10 books!! I literally left this conference with four new books – one of which I already had the e-version of. But for $10…why not! What I saved on my books is literally what a CUE membership costs ($40). DO IT!

At the risk of sounding like a green freshman right after her first prom, my first Spring CUE was everything I hoped that it would be – and it gave me a head-start on my game plan for #CUE2020. I took my cue (get it – aren’t I punny?) from the veterans who eagerly shared their advice – and it paid off. I will definitely be back next year – with even more stickers.

About Kristin Oropeza
Kristin is a full-time special education teacher, contract consultant, and educational content writer. She is a Google Certified Teacher (Level 1 and 2), Google Certified Trainer, and MIE Expert for 2020-2021.

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