EdcampNJ on December 1 kicked off one of the the busiest periods of the school year so far for me, so I haven’t had much time to sit and collect my thoughts on it until now. Much of what I’ve said before about Edcamps still applies; it was great to flatten the hierarchy of teachers – building admins – district admins, if just for a day, in order to talk about improving our practice. As I said on Facebook the following morning:
Yesterday I met principals, teachers, nurses, guidance counselors, reading specialists, and librarians, among others. They were all there on their OWN time, on a Saturday, UNPAID, to improve their craft. It’s easy to get beaten down when you work in public ed, especially in NJ, but beyond being good for our professional practice, yesterday was good for the soul. Can’t wait for the next one.
And I think that second-to-last sentence is where I’m spending a lot of time these days, thinking about the role of personal relationships in our professional practice. When any group of people comes together to plan an Edcamp, they do so under very natural, organic circumstances. They choose to involve themselves in the process, and although the ultimate goal is professional growth and improvement, the vibe around the process – especially in the week or so leading up to it – is akin to getting ready to leave for summer camp and seeing all your camp friends you haven’t seen since last summer.
I’m sure there’s a more eloquent way to put that, but the blurring of those professional-personal relationships seems to be where a lot of the positive energy surrounding these events comes from. When I got to Linwood Middle School for EdcampNJ, it was handshakes and hugs all around, just the same as when we put on Edcamp Leadership back in July. These were not only people I respected on a professional level, but also people I liked hanging out with, and we somehow managed to pull off a thoroughly professional event while learning a lot and having a blast doing it.
As a future school leader, interpersonal relationships are something I think a lot about in terms of the development of school culture. It would be great if everyone at work just got along well, but that’s not realistic. This component of the Edcamp experience is (probably?) not scalable to a whole building or district, but it’s very similar to starting a garage band with your buddies or when the neighborhood kids decide, “Hey! Let’s put on a show right here in the backyard!” Everyone’s all in from the word “go”, and what happens after that is, at least in part, a direct result of that micro-culture that’s been created by the volunteers.
Yes, we had good conversations about pedagogy, technology, and learning, but like I said above, it was good for the soul just to be in a social learning space with fellow educators. I’m definitely not one for woo-woo, but metaphorically speaking, the energy surrounding the event felt rejuvenating, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Makes me wonder if and how we can do this more frequently or more pervasively, for students as well as educators.