Of course, I did. In March I was selected in the lottery to participate in #edcampUSA at the Department of Education on Friday, May 29th. The learning, conversations, and friendships that sprung from the day make me feel like I won a different type of lottery. Throughout the day I kept notes, in my own chaotic style (read if you dare). You can also find group session notes linked through the Schedule Board. There was so much that happened, I thought using six word photo stories would best tell my story and help me reflect.
There was palpable excitement as our diverse group of educators met. Many for the first time face-to-face, but long time connections through our PLN.
We did not know each other before this experience. There is something that instantly unites people with similar passions and struggles. It is not the first time that I have left an edcamp feeling that I have friends to turn to for answers and support.
Staff Members from the Department of Education joined. It was a unique experience hearing them explain their ideas without the usual political jargon or slant. I felt like they listened to us. They acknowledged that we were the experts. There has to be collaboration between policy makers and teachers for anything to improve in education.
It just takes an instant for an idea to blossom and spread. In this case it was a phrase that we united around and laughed over. But with all the conversations and relationships that started yesterday, we could easily unit around a solution to one of the challenges facing education right now.
This was a point made by Ruth Buck from Teach to Lead. We can not just complain about what does not work. We must be part of the solution – or at least brainstorm what that could look like. The comparison was made to a Faculty Room: complaining just makes people miserable together. Problem solving can bring hope.
My first session inspired me the most. How can pre-service teachers be mentored to understand the classroom environment and the types of PD they should seek? How can veteran teachers find value in what young teachers have to offer? The room was a healthy mix of undergraduate professors, principals, and teachers. We had ideas for chats, hashtags, Skype, Google Hangout, etc. I look forward to welcoming a pre-service teacher into my classroom, even if it is from afar.
Edcamp always provides inspiration. It also tends to be teachers with a “Can Do” attitude. We problem solve instead of quitting. I went to a great session about motivation and shifting the culture to support failure as a healthy part of the process. We discussed the learned helplessness that starts with students and continues to adults. Here someone solved the problem of not being able to attend – she visited the session through Skype. I got many great ideas for summer reading books in this session.
I’ve heard many of the strategies of Gamification before. However, the teacher who presented this was so passionate, it got be thinking about it a lot more. I loved the concept of providing rewards for being a positively contributing member of society. Going to school is not just about getting grades.
This is never the problem of traditional PD! Too often people on the outside are dictating what is going to be trained and discussed. There was an abundance of great session proposals at EdcampUSA. I took advantage of the Rule of Two Feet and changed sessions to get the most for my money … oh wait. Edcamps are always free 🙂 This time I did pay for travel and a hotel.
You hear the statistics that we are preparing students for jobs that do not exist yet. Meeting Erik really put that into perspective for me. He gets paid to play/evaluate videogames. His official title is Games for Learning Lead. He explained how he ended up where he was. There was an awareness of what he was learning/discovering as he played the games, which he blogged about extensively. He talked about hiding his alternate education from his traditional education institution. We should embrace however students are learning.
Teach to Lead is a newer initiative from the Department of Education (that is still in the progress of being developed). They are promoting teacher leadership through Teach to Lead Summits. A few of them have taken place across the country. It sounds like something that will have more value and potential as it grows.
The Teach to Lead concept is perfect for me, but requires district buy in. The concept was to stop taking talented, passionate teachers out of the classroom, but encourage them to be teacher leaders. It would decrease the attrition of teachers out of the teaching profession. I don’t want to leave the classroom to be a full time teach coach, but I would love to feel appreciated for all the knowledge and help I provide.
So where do I go from here? I’m almost sad there is only a week left in the school year. However, it will give me a chance to further reflect and apply changes into my classroom.Thanks to David (@delta_dc) I have a long list of books I want to read this summer, like Put Thinking to the Test, Creative Schools, Asking Better Questions, The Whole Story, etc.
I am going to make more of an effort to connect with local colleges and universities with professional development opportunities for their students, like Edcamp Hershey we are planning for July 27th. I want to check out the website and information for iMentor. I passed on information to my district about Teach to Lead. While changing district policy is not quick, I feel like it would be something to benefit the students. As a district, I think we need to improve the culture of our building. The focus is not on the learning process but the end scores, and that causes tension across the building. Failing is ok, as long as it is part of the process and not the end result. How can we get parents, students, and teachers to agree? I am going to rework some of my classroom goals to clearly state it from my perspective. Along these lines, I wrote a letter to my students, but considering the audience, I turned it into a video:
I’m already looking forward to seeing my friends again, luckily we have all planning to attend #ISTE2015. And there will always be other edcamps.