Over 14,000 educators across the state of California gathered for the first California Teachers Summit taking place at 33 colleges and universities. In an effort to empower those in attendance, part of the day was designed to bring the Edcamp unconference model in and allow voice and choice.
You may be wondering why I was involved if I’m not a California teacher. Well, my friends in the Bay Area have already adopted me…AND the Edcamp Foundation asked me to help. How could I say no to a trip to Bakersfield at the end of July?
Friday was truly a special day for the 500+ attendees at CSU Bakersfield because I got to introduce them to Edcamp. The CSU Bakersfield staff were a little anxious about the two hour chunk of time that had no set schedule, but I promised them that they could trust me to help guide everyone and to also trust the process. Sure, there were people that were uncomfortable. There were also skeptics. But I saw a session board grow in front of my eyes in five minutes and I knew that they were ready. With the reminder to contribute to the conversation, use the rule of two feet, and a little luck…they were sent on their way. As I walked the campus making my way into a variety of sessions, I could feel the energy. It was electrifying. It was invigorating. People were sharing, taking notes, and learning.
As we ended our time, there were takeaways shared through a Padlet. The overwhelming majority of comments were positive and reflected the same energy that I witnessed. As the day drew to a close, all attendees were once again asked to reflect on their day and share their thoughts with the group. Several people highlighted choice of learning, getting the opportunity to learn from others, sharing best practices, and building community. It is through the California Teacher Summit and the Edcamp unconference that these highlights came to be. Because, we are better together.
There are over 14,000 educators that experienced a little slice of an Edcamp; And for that, my heart is happy.
The past few weeks have afforded me the opportunity to attend several great conferences where I was able to learn, connect, and share. It’s so refreshing to be able to do all of those things. Which made me question why it was so great to be able to do ALL three and not one over the other.
Learning: I love learning because I never want to stop soaking up all the knowledge and goodness of this world.
Connecting: I love connecting because my social being craves interactions with others. Tell me your dreams, your ideas, or your mistakes. I will share mine. We can learn from one another and develop deeper relationships.
Sharing: I love sharing because this world can already be such a selfish place, so I want to give back to those that shared with me and beyond. Much like Dean Shareski has said, it is our moral imperative to share. We can learn so much from sharing, so let’s do it.
I am thankful for the friends and colleagues that allowed me to learn, connect, and share at SETDA, ISTE, and Sugar Valley Tech Summit. I continue to grow as an educator, leader, and person because of you.
It is my belief that educators have stories to share that showcase the amazing work that they do on a daily basis. We have stories about relationships that have been fostered against all odds, achievement that happened despite the averages, student-led initiatives that compelled others to do the unthinkable, and even innovative ways that we continue to grow professionally. There are platforms in which we can share these stories…but too often they become echo chambers and our stories are only heard by our peers or those of us in education. I want more. I want teacher voices to be heard. I want to empower teachers to share their stories.
I received an email this morning that started with the typical “thank you, but…” to inform me that I had not been selected to speak at a Tedx event. Again. I half expected it, but half hoped that it might be different this time. So I tried to brush it off. That lasted all of 10 seconds. Once again, an educator’s voice about passion and innovation is silenced. Once again, my story will not be shared. Why?
Why are we afraid to let teachers share their stories? Why can we not give educators the platform in which to get their message out to an audience that isn’t fellow educators? Why must we continue to watch our profession be negatively highlighted in the media due to the salacious indiscretions of a select few? Why are our words falling on deaf ears?
I’m left with more questions than answers right now. Oh, and the story that I won’t get to share. Again.
As a music lover, there was nothing greater than rushing out to buy a new release on Tuesday morning, peeling the shrinkwrap off, tearing the blasted seals back (in pieces of course), popping the cd out of the jewel case, and putting it in the player to listen to for the first time. I would spend the time perusing the jacket to read lyrics, marvel at cover art and photos inside, and take in the wonderful sensation of new music. This has obviously changed with digitization of music. Instead, I pre-order my albums from various sites, hoping that a cd jacket is included so I can still waste copious amounts of time learning the words that are put to the newest arrangements of sweet notes.
As an educator, there is nothing better than mapping out how your classroom will look and feel for the new school year, moving furniture around to try it this way and that, putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls to create a new mood, organizing materials for the year in a new manner, and dreaming of how this year will be different. My first year of teaching certainly looks different than this year. As it should. This change comes from my own learning, and not just because I’ve seen how I can or can’t handle little ones based on classroom design. Instead, my awareness has made me see that the notion of “school” that I know and that I even followed in my first few years of teaching is nothing to be replicated any longer. I’ve heard amazing speakers tell me how today’s students learn differently, I’ve learned the importance of relationships with students, I’ve made mistakes in front of students, I’ve challenged students to be global citizens, I’ve outlined my mission, and I’m more aware.
You see, the beginning of a new school year is much like that fated new release Tuesday in many ways. I anxiously await its arrival – usually so much that I never sleep the night before it begins. I consume it in its entirety – you know it’s bad when you stay later than the custodians, new ideas wake you from a dead sleep, or multiple evenings are spent planning and that doesn’t bother you. I hold it precious – because new is new, whether it’s a cd or a school year. I spend a lot of time with it – it never leaves my thoughts, ideas, or dreams. Lastly, I share it – because what good is it, if you don’t tell others?
“Let’s face it, we all got on Twitter because something was missing for us in real life.”
These words were spoken at the very first session led by Beth Still during EduBloggerCon based on her post We Need to Talk About This. It has taken me a couple of days to process them because they really resonated with me.
I was encouraged to blog and tweet in order to share and learn. It took me a while to figure out how to do this. The idea of transparency involves that big F word that Adam Bellow refers to… FEAR.
I was missing relationships that allowed me to share my successes and failures without judgement.
Over the course of almost two years, I have been able to successfully form relationships that provide this safe arena where I can be vulnerable enough to share. Much like Chris Lehmann mentioned that students need to know it’s ok to fail, so long as learning takes place, I needed that as well. And I’m better because of it. Not only a better teacher, but a better listener, a better problem-solver, and a better friend.
I WAS missing something in my real life. But now I’m not.
Today started my 11th day back at school. My students have gotten the routine down for the most part. If you read my last post about procedures vs. assessments, I will have you know I compromised a bit and assessed for one hour while I had the help of the literacy teachers who came in to teach for me. Then we went back to working on our stamina for Daily 5, reviewing spelling for Sitton Spelling, and trying to establish and maintain some sense of order and normalcy.
This afternoon though I had one of those moments where I just didn’t want to practice doing something because we’re supposed to. I rearranged my plans and we did other things that I had planned for later in the week. But I just sensed that my kids were feeling squirrely today. So I stopped what we were doing and got down on the floor with them. I then proceeded to show them my stupid human tricks that I do. I ran through the list of things:
1. Touch nose with tongue
2. Fold tongue in half
3. Roll tongue
4. Flip tongue over
5. Cross my eyes and move one while other stays crossed
6. Bend each finger and flick the end of the finger quickly like there’s no bone
I had already told them that I auditioned for American Idol. They weren’t too sure that I was being honest. So they asked me to sing. I did. For the life of me, I couldn’t think of a song on the spot, so I sang the Star-Spangled Banner. They all sat with eyes wide open, not moving an inch, staring at every move I made, and completely enthralled in the olde English words that came out of my mouth. When the song was done, they proceeded to burst into claps that went on for a long time and they were all grinning ear-to-ear.
They were able to see that I love to laugh, be silly, and have fun. They were able to be captivated by my love of singing. They were able to see me as a person for just a few minutes, and not just as their teacher. I hope that these few minutes of my day to have nothing but silliness and non-academic related content flourish in my time with these kids. They need to know that I am human. I am someone who has very high expectations and know that they can meet these. I also want what’s best for them because I genuinely care about them and want them to do well not only in my classroom, but in life.