Friday, September 25, 2015

Psst...Hey, You Want a Free DVD? by Susan Gable

by Susan Gable
Director of Education Curriculum - 

Four teachers and I found ourselves making that offer over and over again in Nashville and Boston in November, 2014. It's an offer most teachers find hard to refuse. (I mean, come on! It's FREE! No catch!)

The Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) conference took place from Nov. 5 - Nov. 7, 2014 at the Opryland Convention Center in Nashville, TN. Jim Buchanan, a 2009 Teacher of the Year Runner-up and a 2010 Teacher of the Year, helped at the booth, along with Love Merryman Bates, a 2014 Teacher Associate of the Year. Though Jim's trip started with a wrinkle-- the hotel had no room for him when he checked in at 11:30 pm, and then the room they "found" for him turned out to be occupied by four sleeping women when he accessed it with the keycard the front desk gave him, exciting times! -- things smoothed out quickly. Both Jim and Love are enthusiastic proponents, and they shared that with the attending teachers.

The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) convened Nov. 20- Nov. 23, 2014 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, and I thought if ever there was a location that would draw social studies teachers, it would be Boston. That turned out to be true, as attendance was higher than normal, but it turned out to be a curse as well because we discovered, in the mostly empty exhibit hall on Saturday, that social studies teachers would rather go out and explore the real history than stay inside and take workshops or peruse new materials. (We understood, as we were eager to see some "real history" as well. We did, with an amazing private tour of the Old North Church, but that's another post!) Elizabeth Harris, new to us as a teacher associate but who's been using and recommending our materials for years, and Mike Siekkienen, a 2011 Teacher of the Year who attended AMLE with me last year, helped us in Boston.

While our main goal is to find and engage teachers who don't know about, we also get current members visiting us, which we encourage by sending emails prior to the conference. Sometimes they bring friends to introduce them to Other times we would get unsolicited testimonials as teachers walked by and exclaimed, "izzit! I love izzit!" Those folks were pulled over and "put to work" if only for a minute, telling others gathered at the booth that there's "no catch, it's really free and it's great!"

At this year's AMLE, a teacher stopped to chat and informed us that she was doing a workshop at the conference, and would be mentioning as a great teacher resource. 

After I return from conference with my forms, it's "all hands on deck" as most of the office staff pitch in to get them entered into the computer. We run across interesting things as we go through them. For example, we're starting to think handwriting is no longer being taught in schools because teachers themselves have such horrible handwriting. (Admit it, you know this is true of some of you!) Trying to read some of the forms is a challenge. 

This year we discovered someone who, wanting a free DVD but not wanting to give us his information, had actually filled out the form as the school janitor. (We discovered that from the school's website. We also figured it was a safe bet that the district hadn't sent the school janitor to a social studies conference.) Another person gave us a "school" address that turned out to be under a highway overpass. I don't think he really lived/worked there. Do you?

Our conference presence serves to reinforce the emails we send out each month to prospective customers. I've heard numerous times at conference, "I didn't think you guys were real!" So we're able to demonstrate that yes, we're real, we're not scammers, and we really do want to give teachers classroom resources for free.

Sometimes there really is a free...DVD. At least, there is for teachers thanks to and our funders.

I hope that during the 2015/16 school year, we'll get the chance to see some of you at conferences! We'll be at AMLE, NCSS, and NCEA again this year, as well as the NEA conference. Stop by, say hi, and get your bonus FREE DVD!

Susan Gable is the Director of Education Curriculum at She holds a BA in Psychology from Douglas College/Rutgers University and is a certified elementary teacher in 3 states, with ten years of classroom experience. She’s a multi-published, award-winning author who also teaches writing workshops.