For the last four years, I have been heavily involved with a fantastic event: EdCamp Bemidji.
EdCamp may well be my favorite day of the entire year. Four years ago, I was a participant at the first EdCamp Bemidji, which had been organized by two forces of nature: Stacy Bender-Fayette and Lisa Sjogren. After that first year, I got involved on the planning committee, and for the last two have been a co-chair of the event.
Sometimes people ask me why I got into teaching, and I used to feel bad that my answer was not the typical elementary teacher answer– “Because I love kids.” I mean– don’t get me wrong– I DO love kids. But the reason I got into teaching (and lately, administration), is because I love LEARNING. A few years ago I got into professional development, and the idea of parallel process- meaning– what’s good for the kids is good for the adults. That single philosophical shift has made a major difference in my career and my outlook. I realized that it’s good for adults to be learning new techniques, exposed to new ideas, involved in developing new methods– even if they never, ever use them– simply because the process of the learning and reflection on the learning is so valuable.
If you’ve never been to an Edcamp, I suggest you find one right this minute and attend.
Edcamps are free and open events that are focused on best practices in education. Rather than bringing in expensive clinicians or keynote speakers, we basically get an auditorium and fill it full of educators, and then ask them– What do you want to learn about?
Teachers propose the sessions– they come up and say, “I’d like to have a discussion on the best way to engage students of color in my classroom,” or “I have never used twitter before and I want to find out how,” or “I’m a student teacher and I want to learn more about using Daily 5 or Reader’s Workshop” and then we find them a room, add them to the schedule, and there you have it. Teachers choose which sessions they’d like to attend, or they choose to spend an hour researching something that they’d like to use, or they choose to spend an hour sitting with their colleagues talking about the things they never have time to talk about.
I have always felt that administrators should be more involved in professional development. It models good behavior and a growth mindset to staff, as well as letting your staff know that you truly value continuous improvement. At Edcamp, we’ve always been careful about levelling the playing field, and letting people know that we are all equals. This makes the Edcamp experience even more valuable– I learned so much listening to teachers about what they value and things that they struggle with and want to know more about. Administrators who do not take the time to value their staff in this way will soon find themselves irrelevant and out of touch.
I am super proud of EdCampBJI because Stacy and I are laser focused on making sure that they day is smooth, easy, and fun for everyone. Our committee goes crazy finding great prizes, food, and a beautiful space for the event, and keeping everything absolutely free for the educators.
This year, as a new Director, I was particularly proud of my staff. Throughout the day I saw Schoolcrafters leading sessions, offering ideas, helping people find their way, volunteering to move coffee/clean up after lunch/etc, and basically just propping people up all day long. Schoolcraft has been a sponsor of EdCampBJI for the last 4 years, and I am anticipate that we will always find ways to be involved.