Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend Edcamp Leadership hosted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. The event on Penn’s campus in Philadelphia was one of more than 40 similar events being held around the country and internationally throughout the day. This was my third Edcamp Leadership, and the event has become one of the highlights of my summer schedule, allowing me to continue growing professionally, challenged by the great educators who turn out to share their expertise. As Dr. Joe Mazza stated during his introduction to the day, “The smartest person in the room is no one individual, it IS the room.”
Below are several of my reflections from the event:
- We are facing several issues in education that require us to take a different approach than we have previously taken. Many of the day’s sessions focused on moving away from traditional models of education, incorporating fresh methods for challenging our students. One of the overarching themes to many of the sessions that I attended was changing our mindset from one of a fixed nature to a growth model. From professional learning opportunities, to creating a more positive school culture, to promoting risk-taking among students, we must approach all aspects of school with a growth mindset. We are able to truly change education for the better, as long as we approach our problems with an open mind to produce meaningful change.
- During the session I attended about Mindset hosted by Matt LaGrou, he raised an interesting point. He asked a simple question, “Are we preparing the path for the child or are we preparing the child for the path?” It seems as if we provide students with so much structure and support to ensure a smooth path that we do not equip our students with the ability to persevere when the path is difficult. Promoting a culture of growth can help starting with even our youngest learners.
- Educators are still struggling with finding meaningful ways to engage in professional learning within their districts. I sat in with some very smart educators who discussed ways to gain teacher buy-in. What we determined as a group was that a variety of opportunities must be utilized to meet teachers where they are. Sessions must be implemented to model the types of activities that we wish to see in classrooms happening with students. Try some of these activities for making professional learning more meaningful and relevant.
- Positive school culture is necessary for accomplishing anything else within a school. Session 3 on school culture had so many attendees that it actually turned into two sessions in two different rooms. I learned that creating a positive school culture sometimes involves messy conversation. Erin Murphy, who co-facilitated the session shared this:
- We must take time to build relationships, talk with and empathize with staff, students and parents, and collectively solve problems as a team. We must also consider and recognize the contributions of all staff members (including support staff!) to a building and its’ positive culture. When all else fails, bring in puppies and kittens to school during stressful times of the year. (Someone who did this shared that it was an AWESOME experience for all involved! Who doesn’t love kittens and puppies?)
- In the last session of the day, another group of dedicated educators discussed the ins and outs of design thinking. Modeling the design thinking process allowed the group to engage in some authentic problem solving. Most important to anyone trying to create a culture around design thinking, STEAM, or Makerspaces is understanding your WHY. Determine what experience you are trying to create for students before jumping in with both feet. Empathy, as the first step in the design thinking process is an absolutely necessary step in order to produce or create something that will make a difference for the end user.
Thank you to all of the attendees for the amazing discussion that challenged my thinking. And special thanks to the following educators for helping me to learn during this wonderful event: