Why do the shortest weeks at school seem the longest? That’s the question we teachers asked each other all week long. After the Labor day weekend without launching into the rhythm of a regular 5-day week, the foreshortening simply added to the lack of symmetry from a planning perspective and caused a cascade of rescheduling and unanticipated turbulence. It was a recipe for exhaustion. So it was, after this marathon of sorts that I planned my Saturday around an EdCamp event. The thought of sleeping in began to take root in my subconscious. My friend Paula texted, “What about EdCamp?” It was Friday afternoon and we were planning to volunteer at the setup. “Why, are you changing your mind?” I texted this wondering if she could detect my own reservations. We decided to speak on the phone. I could hear her own tired voice. She’s a Media Specialist from a neighboring school and unlike some, she is responsible for teaching regular classes. Oh, let’s just go I declared, realizing it was me who got us into this and I knew full well it would be a wonderful opportunity to network and share trends in education. She responded in kind, with an indignant, “I was always planning to go!” Teachers have to motivate each other. We are all nearly tireless seekers of new ideas to take back to the classroom. The thought of Shelley Paul having to host the event was a reality check. It’s the least we can do we thought and helped set-up, then returned the Saturday morning at 8 for the conference.
It’s just difficult and I could list the many reasons all teachers need the weekend off, but in truth, EdCampAtlanta recharged me and inspired me to approach this week we a renewed dedication to inspiring my students to take charge of their own learning.
I signed up to ‘share’ not to present, which is what you do at these things. They are meant to be a gathering of the collective conscious, a way to expand and grow ideas rather than to purvey standardized thinking or repackaged goods. During my session, friend, Jen Wagner tweeted a hopeful, “keep me informed” about EdcampATL. She’s in California and has her ear to the ground on all things related to innovative teaching and learning. I decided to take a chance. I asked my group if they had ever participated in “Projects by Jen” and three of them raised their hands. I said, hey, why don’t I call her, maybe she can say a few words about her current projects. As luck would have it, she answered. “Kathy?”, she said with a smile in her voice. (we’re friends) “Hey everyone, say Hi to Jen!” Just like a classroom of students they responded chorally. Jen laughed. “This is a first,” she announced, “I have never been a guest speaker at a conference in my pajamas before!” We all laughed and Jen’s easy way put us immediately softened our faces. She encouraged participation in the O.R.E.O. project as well as the Holiday Card project. We only chatted briefly but the affect was palpable. She was what we educators like to call, a warm fuzzy. Relationships are at the heart of education and technology can help connect people. Some of the people in my group tweeted about Jen’s visit. They are following her on Twitter and she them. http://www.projectsbyjen.com/
There were only three possible session time slots and 9 different session events taking place simultaneously. It was like a buffet but you could only choose 3 items, so unfair! I didn’t see Paula until lunch and she was actively sharing with a bevy of media specialists. I was learning more about gamefication and making mobile apps from Catherine Flippen @catflippen. I also spoke with some high school teachers who are looking for ways to make their classrooms feel smaller (34+ students) by incorporating some stations and seeking the creativity commonly associated with elementary school practices. that shows some real divergent thinking on their part.
So the sessions ended, lunch was over and the smackdown complete. Paula and I darted out before our brains exploded. Just implement 1 new idea, was the suggestion, don’t try to do it all at once. Who said this? My mind was on pause. Paula and I were pretty quiet on the ride home. “Are you glad you went?” I asked rhetorically. She gave me an over dramatic glare and started laughing. I laughed too, all the tension melting into a moment of feeling elevated. Yeah, it was worth it. It was well worth it.