I plan a party every Saturday for early childhood educators. My role at Camp Fire is providing professional development options for early childhood educators in North Texas. Each week the main speakers change, but I am consistently planning a big event for 50-100 people. I enjoy this – even though it takes a tremendous amount time and energy.

For example, I am currently wrapping up our “Saturday parties” that will take place in April, May and June. I need to determine presentation topics, presenters, locations, presentation times and fees. I work with a great team that, along with all their other work, also support our “Saturday parties” with setting up the rooms and refreshments and providing the needed paperwork- certificates, evaluations, and sign-in sheets.

Every “Saturday party” also has to be promoted, which includes a full – and entirely different team - of people.  One “Saturday party” requires a lot of people to help plan, promote and put in place. Some Saturdays we offer unique topics, such as our Special Needs Mini-Conference we hosted in September 2018. We had been promoting the event since June, collaborated with two outside speakers from the Down Syndrome Partnership of North Texas and had about 50 people registered. The weather was nice that day. It had been raining for many days prior but had stopped that day. The sun was finally out, and it was going to be 80 degrees by noon - good sign! The presenters showed up - another good sign. The equipment was working properly - another wonderful sign!  This long awaited “Saturday party” was moving along. The attendees all arrived on time and we were starting on time.

Here we go! After welcoming all to Camp Fire and this special Saturday event, I introduced the presenters and they took it from there. The presentation started at 8:30 a.m. and everyone was attentive, and the information presented was very beneficial. I glanced at the clock and it was now 9:00 a.m. At 9:04 a.m. . . . . the power went out. Alarms started beeping a bit. No one in the room flinched. The presenter said, “Hey, the laptop is charged so I can see my presentation - let’s continue. We can proceed without you seeing the power point.” Good plan! We also opened the blinds to let light in the room. The party continued. Amazingly everyone was so attentive and engaged and not distracted.

It’s now 10 a.m. and the power company said they were working on the situation but not sure when power would be back on - not a good sign! Our regular schedule included a break at 10:30 a.m. It is September and with 50 people the room was getting stuffy. We decided to end the day at the break, issuing a 2-hour certificate.

We started the day to learn more about children with Down Syndrome because much of the early education community are unfamiliar (in the dark) and we ended the day literally in the dark!  But looking back we WERE more familiar with how to support ALL children and families, but we also learned the lesson of being flexible to support learning.

The presentation is rescheduled for 2019 and I’ll assemble the team to build another “Saturday party” where early educators can learn more about providing quality care and development for ALL children in their classroom.

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Debra Hanus is senior director of professional development for Camp Fire First Texas. Debra began her career with Camp Fire in 1996 as an early childhood mentor until she moved to her current position in 2009. Before coming to Camp Fire, Debra worked at a national child care provider chain for ten years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Texas at Dallas.