Why EdCamp?

Our school district is partaking in an EdCamp tomorrow, which from my point of view is pretty damn exciting. I've been to three EdCamps so far and enjoyed every one of them. The chief complaints about teacher professional development that I hear around my school are that:
  1. What we're talking about has nothing to do with my classroom.
  2. What we're doing is the same as what we did last year and the year before and...
  3. I have way too much to be doing in my classroom right now.
The beauty of an EdCamp is that it allows each individual teacher to solve each of those three complaints.

What we're talking about has nothing to do with my classroom.
EdCamp utilizes an idea called voting with your feet. This means that if you are sitting in a session and realize that you'd rather not be there, you are allowed - in fact encouraged - to get up and go find a different session. It's beautifully awkward, until it's not. The first time you see it happen, you kind of get a sinking feeling in your stomach and wonder if that person walking out is going to get scolded. Then you realize pretty quickly that the session keeps going along strongly because the only people in the session are people that want to be there!

What we're doing is the same as what we did last year and the year before and...
The other unsettling aspect of and EdCamp is that the participants create the schedule right before the day begins. Our school is doing a half-day EdCamp with one 30-minute session and two 45-minute sessions. They all start after lunch. Throughout the morning, anyone who has an idea for a session simply needs to find a blank space, come up with something that they find interesting and important, and host a session. Many sessions simply start with a question. The "host" is not giving a presentation, necessarily, but rather may just be starting a discussion. Often, those are the best sessions that I've attended.

I have way too much to be doing in my classroom right now.
Ah, the classic grip of professional development. I've been guilty like probably every other teacher of not giving my full attention to a PD session and instead working on something of my own instead.* EdCamp style PD allows you to collaborate, conversate and think.

*Sorry to anyone reading this who has led a session that I've been a part of. I usually listen - I promise!

A quick story of the best 20 minutes of all the EdCamps that I've participated in. I was in St. Louis last year when I ran into Tyler Shannon () who is the principal at one of the elementary schools in our district. We had both walked out of more than one session and were just kind of wandering. If you're thinking about organizing an EdCamp, this is your nightmare - educators upon educators wandering around doing nothing. The key is to rethink what nothing actually looks like. Tyler and I ended up chatting about educational philosophy for about 20 minutes. He has become a great mentor for me over the last year, in large part because of our conversation at #EdCampSTL.

***

Interactions like that one are the success stories of EdCamps everywhere. If you are a part of education, you are currently either ending or getting ready to end your summer and head back to work. You didn't pick education because of the plush pay. You are in education because you care; because you love your children; because you have a passion for changing the next generation. The great tragedy of traditional PD is that it sits like-minded teachers feet apart with no real, genuine interaction. EdCamp style PD solves this tragedy better than any other PD in which I have participated.

If you don't believe me, read about it from some other educators all of whom are probably a lot smarter and better at teaching than I am.
Or if you're looking for some informal proof, try any of these hashtags out: #edcamp - #edcampkc - #edcampSTL - #edcampUSA - #edcampHome - #edcampGlobal

For all of my Center peeps, enjoy tomorrow. It's going to be awesome!  

Thanks for reading this blog! I hope you'll consider taking a moment to comment below and turn this into a conversation. Whether you are an educator or not, we have all had common experiences with education both good and bad. I want to hear what you think! 

About Me:
My name is Alec Chambers. I am a high school history and government teacher at a small, urban public school in Kansas City called Center High School. We regularly kick tail. Among many awards, we were named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2014. I don't just teach at Center- I also graduated from Center in 2006 after attending Center Schools K-12. I have a degree in Political Science, a second degree in International Relations, a third degree in Education and a Master's of Arts in Teaching. I have an unofficial degree is soccer. All of those degrees have led me to the high-paying teaching profession! I have a newborn daughter and am married to the most awesome woman on the planet. Seriously. It's a proven fact.

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