Sunday, October 12, 2014

Family Reunion: Edcamp Green Bay 2014

That was fun! Edcampgb 2014 is in the books, so after a day of rest and thought, here are four key take aways from the experience.
...but first, let me take a selfie

1.  The spirit of education is still very much alive.

Leading up to edcamp Green Bay, there was a lot of planning and coordinating, and late nights (on my part, at least) and shortened finger nails.  All of this was in an effort to get as many passionate educators as possible together on a Saturday to take back their own learning.  I believe we were successful, getting about 98 educators in the door (up from about 87 last year). As always, there were many new educators, and we had several travel from as far away as Milwaukee! All of these great people giving up their Saturdays, and focusing their conversation on getting better helps me believe that educators as a whole, even though many weren't there, still believe in education and believe they can make a difference as teachers.

2.  Twitter is nice...but face to face is soooo much better!
"Brothers don't shake hands, brothers gotta hug!" - Chris Farley in Tommy Boy.

That quote sums up exactly how I felt as I got to reconnect with so many friends face to face. Sure, I communicate quite regularly with them through other means, but man, seeing them in person is such a rush! Whether or not Michael Matera (@mrmatera) or Adam Moreno (@USMDrama) or Ashley Gavin (@MrsGavin_) really wanted it or not, I need to hug. I'm a hugger.  They are such inspirations ( a few of the many) and there just aren't great ways to show how much somebody has made an impact on you.  It was also cool to connect with so many former colleagues and catch up on life and school. It was just a crazy whirlwind of familiar faces!  In addition, I also got to meet some people for the first time, and tried to get to know as many new attendees as possible.

One of the attendees stated she could have gone to a family reunion. In my eyes, I was AT a family reunion. my edu-family is a powerful one, and meeting them is an experience I look forward to, and wish could happen more often. Since I certainly didn't want the connections to end, I set up an informal get together at a local establishment in Green Bay to get to know each other better outside the educational context. About 10 of us went, which is awesome!  A great time was had by all, but just to tell you how passionate these educators are - our several hours together were mainly spent talking about our practice. How about that?

3.  Hosting and running an edcamp is a whole 'nother ballgame

My favorite part of edcamps is the chance to share with others in a safe environment, and learn from some of the brightest minds in education, without any pretense or need for ready made presentations.  I didn't really get that opportunity this time around, as I had my fair share of running around to do as my team and I made sure everything ran smoothly!  However, I found a new favorite thing about edcamps - the flexibility and freedom to make things happen on the fly.
She celebrated her birthday with she got a sweet Google shirt. Was only fair!

I was able to help a young woman by the name of Mindy (I believe). She was frustrated because her session was at the end of the day, and that was really the main thing she wanted to learn about (animation tools and creation). So, as facilitator, I was able to move her session earlier in the day, and give her some direction, AND connect her with people who I knew had experience or at least were in the same content area.  She ended up staying the entire day, and...

Yup, she won a box!
Ultimately, all the planning, prep, and worrying was worth it. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and can't wait to get started on #edcampgb2015 (or whatever it may be muwahahaha).

4.  We still have a long way to reach critical mass with ed camps.

I love edcamps. I think education as a whole would be better if they were the primary form of professional development for school or region level.  They are free, local, and usually come with a ton of perks, including freebies, breakfast, drinks, lunch, and the chance at some amazing door prizes and swag, as well as new connections.

But as I lay awake at night, I can't help but ponder:  why, out of 145 signups, were only 91 able to make it? Why, in a region with several thousand teachers, could we get maybe 1% of the group to attend? Why was I unable to convince any of my new colleagues to come? 

Of course, I shouldn't beat myself over this, and don't intend to. But as passionate as I am about this, I want everybody to experience at least one. Obviously the only way we can achieve that is if schools adopt the model. Unfortunately, there also weren't any administrators at this edcamp... so how do we get them to come?
We even had amazing pizza!!
I don't know the answer. We just have to stay the course. We have to continue to promote the enormous benefits. Ultimately, almost 100 teachers lives and skills are improved because they came. I appreciated their donation of a day of their lives, a day they could spend away from school.  I know it is hard. I know lives are busy. I know they have families. But we also have our students. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. Millions of them depending on us to bring our best selves every single day. We fail, but attending these events is one small way we can get closer to providing our students the type of experiences they will need to be successful.

Until next time...
if this train ever ends...been waiting since yesterday afternoon!