My main takeaway from Edcamp Boston was the brilliance of the overall structure and feel of the day. I am now totally a convert to unconferences. The model just makes sense. I appreciated the collaborative we’re-all-in-it-together feel. I appreciated that sessions were sometimes just questions or calls for help. I appreciated that everyone was treated like an expert, and everyone’s opinion held equal esteem. One of the sessions I went to was about how one school transformed their inservice through an Edcamp model, and that was pretty inspiring to me. We have lots of professional development at my school, and while there is some amount of agency among the teachers to propose and lead sessions, I think we could take it one step further. That’s something I’ll definitely bring up to my school leadership as we start planning for summer inservice.
My other takeaway from Edcamp was how glad I am to not work in public school. Throughout the day, I heard so much from other teachers about feeling isolated at their schools, feeling unsupported by administration, feeling distanced from their peers. In one session on urban education, I talked about my school’s framework of “unconditional positive regard” toward students. One teacher asked me how that was implemented – how do you get teachers to start living that? I was lucky enough to be able to answer that that’s the way it’s been since before I started working at my school – that’s just part of our culture. I am so lucky that I have peers who support me, administration who really care about and believe in our students, and the autonomy to implement changes or experiment with pedagogy in my classroom.
I was also reminded all day of how grateful I am to not have to deal with standardized testing. My kids have the option to take the Vermont state tests, but it may not surprise you that most of them opt out. I don’t have any pressure from my administration to get higher test scores. I take that for granted most of the time, and Edcamp gave me a new appreciation that the pressures at my school are about how to best serve each individual student. That’s the way it should be.
Don’t get me wrong – I respect so much those who work in public schools. It just hurts my heart that some of my peers at public schools are struggling so much, and I wish there was a way for the positive culture at places like my school to influence culture at the public schools around us. On the flip side of the coin, I definitely developed some envy over the day of the institutional support received by some of my fellow tech integrators. I recognize that at my school, the idea of structured technology integration is new, and these things take time. It was inspiring to hear about established programs at other schools and dream about where my program can be in the future.
I guess that brings me back around to the importance of something like Edcamp. A free conference allows a wider cross-section of teachers from schools that may not be able to fund attendance at other conferences. I got to meet a great range of teachers from different settings, and as much as I took from them, I hope they’ll take a little from me as well. Maybe then we can close the gap of isolation that so many people talked about, and become more of a community that can come together to support our students with care.