Monday, 23 February 2015

For the love of 'tradies'

Gabrielle and Christine from Sticks and Stones Education 
I remember the very first conference I ever attended as a new inductee into ECE. Back then we were referred to as childcare workers. I really had no idea of what to expect. What was a conference for anyway? I didn't understand the concept of professional development and its worth at the time. I went to work did my thing and thought 'wow what a good boy am I'. Of course time, experience, and meeting extraordinary educators opened my eyes.
But the one thing I remember the most from my first experience, besides the chatter of collective educators all vying for the perfect seat (or hiding up the back row) was the trade tables. Oh my. Tables full of exciting merchandise I could have only dreamt of as a child. Books, books and more books ranging from the latest 'must haves' to timeless classics. I still remember seeing and drooling over 'There was an old lady who swallowed a fly' an interactive puppet complete with all the characters from the book. I really wanted her. I even had dreams about her for weeks but just couldn't make my pennies stretch far enough to buy her (I now own her although I made her myself).

Kristy from Kipi Kreative Inspiring & Productive Innovations
I was gobsmacked at the elaborate displays, the thoughtfulness of table design, the unyielding passion the demonstrator expressed as she presented a particular item for the umpteenth time and spruiked about the educational value.  I remember the goodie bags over flowing with freebies and crammed  with the latest educational experience that was deemed a necessary resource because so and so had one. I watched as some easily parted with their allotted amount of cash, while others scrounged in the bottom of their handbags for last few coins to make up the price. I was envious. Wow I'd love to be a 'tradie' and surround myself with all that excitement and 'cash' were my parting thoughts from the conference.
Years later I now have a deeper appreciation of the kind of people 'tradies' are. My initial impression that passion must drive those working behind the calico covered folded tables has been proven to be true but little did I know at the time the other admirable traits that must accompany it.
Arrival at a well-planned conference is met with smiling faces, elaborately decorated and intentionally thought out displays of goods ranging from traditional educational must haves to tables laden with 'trending' apparel; and all at 9am in the morning.
It is obvious some kind of passion must drive the 'tradie' to get up at some merciless hour, drink copious amounts of coffee, drive km after km to then lug box after box after unwavering box of goodies that have been either been hand crafted or sort from catalogues or trade fairs to be carefully and skilfully displayed, just so, on the calico covered folding tables to entice you... the educator.
They then sit through most probably the same presenters workshop, Saturday after Saturday, hour after hour, slide after slide, story after story. With their heads buried in what looks like accountant worthy paperwork, they sit quietly scribbling notes or finishing up some handmade item but you will notice, they occasionally look up to nod and smile that 'knowing smile' at those whose gaze may have wandered from the speaker.
Lunch time and its time to put the smile on your dial and work it. Pleasantries, demonstrations, explanations and negotiations fill the hour until once more the drone of the speaker demands quiet. The end of the day is looming and the endless task of packing away begins. Whilst everyone else is safely on their way home from a day of networking and inspiration the 'tradie' is cursing loudly "why won't it fit in the car? It was packed perfectly at 4am this morning".
So as the 'tradie' heads for home with their remaining stock in half filled boxes shoved mercilessly in the car, they are mentally making  notes of all the items that need replacing, items that have been requested and what time they have to get up for the next one.
So do they make any 'cash' as I so naively envisioned all those years ago? Well ask yourself;  have you ever seen a tradie with paid roadies to carry all their wares? Have you seen them arrive in a custom built vans with shelving specially built to display all; Are they decked out in designer outfits with their logos splashed across in gold threaded calligraphy?
NO. Nine times out of ten the 'tradie' is or was an educator just like you. They understand we are not in an industry that pays our worth. Their driving force is not to make bucket loads of money but to stay connected, inspire, network with like minded grown ups and share wisdom and wares.
So next time you are at a workshop or conference give the 'tradie' a smile of thanks.
Or maybe even a coffee. They deserve it.

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