- High School
My first EdCamp was nothing short of a surprise - I’d never before experienced teacher-driven professional development and was instantly enamoured with a process customized to the user and supported by my favorite experts- teachers. It was the most engaging “training” I’d attended in far too long, the choices were wide, the background of participants varied, and ZPD meters were humming at equilibrium. New to EdCamps and need a primer? This video shares the basics of EdCamp and this post provides a packing list.
Many teacher-as-learner opportunities have yet to find exemplary ways to meet the specific needs of attendees, largely because the design is removed from individual teacher input. While I hope we can all name at least one, if not several, excellent PD experiences, we can likely name far more that missed the mark. From the better end of “interesting and cool but won’t quite translate to my classroom” to checking the clock every five minutes while praying for a time warp, adult learners must own that we are a picky bunch. A truly user-responsive experience, such as the EdCamp Rule of Two Feet, leaves us no one to blame but ourselves if we have anything less than an effective session.
In the CORElaborate program, we aim to amplify teacher voice, a natural impetus for hosting an unconference. This year was our second EdCamp #wateachlead and we used what we learned in 2017 to support an event where Washington teachers could gather and learn from each other. Through generous contributions, we provided participants with meals, swag bag, and an exciting giveaway session. We had both a physical and a digital session board for reference, with the digital version serving as a note taking hub for those who wanted to follow the conversation afterward or from afar. We also asked that each session identify a note-taker to support this process.
The most popular session focused on Neural Ed, the use of brain theory to improve instruction. Teachers gathered to share resources, prior learning, and student stories to help each other hone their skills. One teacher queried, “if every teacher knew how the brain worked, would that then translate to every child?” What followed was a lively discussion as to most successful strategies used in participant classrooms. In addition to exploring means to support students through sensory work, metacognition, and mindfulness, educators also assembled to talk technology, highly capable programs, restorative practices, and arts integration, to name just a few sessions. At the end of the day, teachers had the opportunity to participate in the Open Mic session, often called the Smackdown in EdCamp lingo. This is the chance for folks to share their big takeaways from the day and highlight their planned application.
While we built on last year’s experience and consider the 2018 event a win, we have the opportunity to improve further for 2019. One participant took advantage of our sticky note parking lot to suggest facilitators for sessions who would ensure all voices are heard. This was a quick fix in which we visited each room to ask if one person would take on that role. While EdCamp sessions aren’t directed, per se, by the person(s) who proposed the topic, it makes sense to ask for a norm that requests one person encourage participation access. We will keep this structure going forward into next year’s event.
Additionally, we want to continue to expand the reach of our invite. Hosting educators from such places as Kent, Yakima, and Vancouver showcased a respectable geographic spread for a Seattle-area event yet there are so many folks who’ve yet to to be included. We learn best from diverse perspectives, and EdCamps should aim for nothing less. Next year’s event will have an expanded and more personal invite to welcome educators from all pockets of the state.
The most important learning from EdCamp is that which you take back to your practice and employ. Whether a daily routine, a fresh tech tool, or a shiny new instructional unit, EdCamp magic is only as strong as the implementation. Last year, inspired at the Portland-area gathering, I wrote an EdCamp Impact Grant to teach sketchnoting to my colleagues. The grant paid for the books and sketching tools for 20 teachers to attend the series of workshops and earn clock hours. I was able to share my learning and present professional development, leveling up my own learning, and the end result affects an ever wider group of students.
The more EdCamps you attend, the more ideas you can manifest. Inspired at an event last year, I started a book study on systemic racism in K12 schools that led to a diversity PLC at my school. This year’s meet up has me ruminating on teaching students non-violent communication strategies to continue to support SEL in my science classroom. The scope of your EdCamp learning is as wide as your mental reach, as will be the ripples of its effects.
Next EdCamp stop for me? Co-planning #EdCampSWWA for March 16th, 2019 to spread the EdCamp goodness in the Portland/Vancouver area. If not there or CORELaborate’s 2019 Edcamp, I hope to learn with you at a future unconference.
- Teacher Leadership