One of the most difficult conundrums for gifted advocates is preaching to the choir and reaching out to the general education community at the same time. This past weekend, I decided to step out of the choir loft and into the main auditorium … I attended my first EdCamp. To be clear, I was venturing well out of my comfort zone; I am not a teacher and that fact often does not bode well in a room full of teachers.
Any apprehension I felt on the drive into the city melted away as I took a seat to listen to the day’s Inspire Talk. Before the presentation, several people came up to me and thanked me for coming as I had mentioned on Twitter that I planned to attend the event. It occurred to me that it only takes a short walk to bridge the gap between teachers and advocates when we realize that our passion is ultimately to see all students succeed!
Over the past 24 hours, I’ve reflected on why this experience was so different for me when clearly the emphasis of an EdCamp is geared to primarily professional development for teachers. Then it struck me … the very nature of this relatively new type of unconference brought together the avant garde of the teaching profession; the forward thinkers who are not bound by rules of from whom they can and cannot learn.
All in attendance considered themselves life-long learners. There was the sense that learning can take place anywhere. There was also a general sense of frustration among these teachers that their profession had taken a hit in recent years with the continual demands of standardized testing which sapped the creativity and innovative spirit that had sent many of them into the classroom in the first place. This was particularly evident among those who taught in public schools. How sad.
Unlike past experiences in formal school district settings, I felt accepted and heard when I spoke about my role in social media to facilitate the conversation between parents and teachers in the gifted community. Gifted students were viewed as a part of the school population who had needs that deserve to be met. It was an uplifting experience to say the least.
EdCamps are probably not a destination for most parents. However, they are something parents should talk about with their child’s teacher as a viable option for educators who seek quality professional development. And did I mention the conference was free? The only expense was getting to the conference, and with the proliferation of EdCamps around the country this should not be a major issue in the future.
Why does my attendance at an educational conference matter? It is a sign of hope that there are teachers who are not bound by traditional expectations of how children learn or how anyone learns. We must seek out ways to work together.