EdCamp STL 2014

Yesterday I attended my first EdCamp conference and I wanted to post some reflections on the experience. If you have never been to an EdCamp, the idea is to organize educators and education professionals together to share knowledge and skills as well as just grapple with issues in education. There are no fancy presentations, planned out sessions, or any of the traditional elements that make education conferences so expensive. Instead, EdCamp relies on donations, volunteers, and a free hosting space in order to bring together a spontaneous collaboration of professionals. All of the sessions happen because someone proposes a question, idea, or wants to share something and then the people in that room contribute to the dialogue thereby creating their own development. After being at the conference, I must say it’s a fantastic model that I found even more useful and informative than a traditional day of professional development.

I jumped around to a few different sessions yesterday including grading based on beliefs, 20% time in the classroom, makerspace, and then the state of education in St. Louis. Each session had interesting discussion and the best part was simply that I got to meet so many professionals from around the area. I think this is the part lacking from the teaching profession as it currently is. We have a required number of professional development hours, but these are hours spent doing the same things with the same people in and around our own schools. I have gained so much more from the development hours I spent talking with other people, whether it be online or at conferences such as EdCamp. I think it’s a travesty that this isn’t a requirement for teachers much like what other professionals do to maintain their qualifications. I don’t think teachers, or schools as entities, should work in as much isolation as they do. There are so many things we can learn from one another and I certainly took that away from each of the sessions I went to yesterday.

The last session was especially fascinating. A woman posed the question “Is education in St. Louis transforming or reforming in any way?” She actually works outside education and was interested in hearing from professionals about their opinion of the state of education in St. Louis. People spoke from various perspectives and I enjoyed hearing their opinions. We covered a gamut of topics from the transfer situation, to the private vs. public education debate, to St. Louis’s overwhelming population segregation. I connected with many articulate people who have the same passion for change that I do and the discussion raged on after the session ended.

Overall, I had a great experience at EdCamp. It reenergized my joy of teaching and my faith in what education professionals are doing. It’s great for professionals to get together to brainstorm, share opinions, and help each other problem solve issues related to their school or the larger education context. I’ll be excited for the next EdCamp next year!

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