Yesterday, our school district hosted our 2nd annual Edcamp. The idea of replacing our traditional Professional Development day with an event based on teacher voice and choice actually sprang up almost two years ago. In that time, teachers have embraced the idea that they can make their own professional learning mean something.
Round two of our version of edcamp was another overwhelming success due to the willingness of our own teachers to share their expertise. The day provided a great opportunity to learn, and bring something (like a strategy, resource, activity, lesson, idea, etc.) back to your classroom. While planning and running the day can be an overwhelming experience, I also tried to take something away from the day, to continue my own learning and add to my own practice. Below are several of my reflections from the day:
Group process need to be considered more in education. I had the chance to attend a session where several teachers took part in a Breakout EDU game. For those who have not heard of this, it is an immersive learning game where a group works collaboratively to use clues and solve puzzles to unlock a key to “escape” a room. All of the materials are included in the kit, and two of our teachers planned a game using suggestions from the website. It was amazing to watch the group process and group dynamics at play! In one session, natural leaders took charge and led the group with other teachers playing the role of bystander. It was interesting to watch some of those bystanders listen and carefully consider clues, interjecting when they had discovered something important. With the number of stakeholders that are involved in decision making in schools, we must consider the effects of group process in order to make better decisions.
Teachers are stressed out! Several sessions revolved around giving staff members an opportunity to de-stress! Core workout and yoga sessions proved to be two of the more popular sessions. In addition, a local healthcare group sent a masseuse over to give massages. This turned out to be so popular that a second masseuse was called in to help out! Providing teachers an outlet for the everyday stresses associated with teaching is an important step that school leadership must consider.
Stop and appreciate each moment. One of our sessions featured a Google Hangout with Author Dan Tricarico and a discussion of his book The Zen Teacher. Dan shared his strategies for mindfulness and self-care, encouraging attendees to live in the moment. Dan recounted several times when he stopped during his daily travels to notice the beauty in things that he had encountered thousands of times before without noticing them. As educators, we must learn to appreciate the beauty in those small moments, and find ways to be more present in our daily encounters.
Everyone needs a chance to be creative! Another popular session gave teachers the opportunity to demonstrate their creative abilities using a pottery wheel. One of our art teachers showed teachers how to use the wheel to create, but also as a form of art therapy. I watched as teachers seemed to relax and center themselves while creating. We need to find more ways for teachers to practice being creative so that they can model this for students.
Connection is what makes all of us great. The day captured what makes all of us great– human connection. Whether it was colleagues connecting with others they don’t normally see during the lunch session, or connections made across the country using technology, teachers found ways to learn from each other through discussion and interaction. When our educators close their doors every day, and don’t have a chance to connect with others, we lose something in the process. We must give more opportunities for educators to build relationships and connect to learn.
“You can never step into the same stream twice.” This quote came from our session with Dan Tricarico, and Dan explained that even though you do many of the same things every day, like completing the same commute to work, you must find ways to be present in each moment. I’ve been to several edcamps, and I’m always amazed that each event seems to have a distinct identity. Even though some of our edcamp sessions yesterday were repeats from last year’s event, I feel like the proceedings took on a completely different identity. Educators were more comfortable with the format, and willing to share more. Teachers suggested session topics on the morning of the event, different from last year. Our staff welcomed teachers and administrators from another school district, who brought a sense of newness to the event. In addition, a number of teachers new to our district this year brought a new energy to the event. The day captured where we all are at this moment!
I believe that these type of events are good for the educator’s soul. They allow us to connect, to share, to be creative, to rejuvenate, to be present in the moment, and most of all, to continue down our learning path.
For more information about our District Edcamp, please check out these other posts: