They just weren’t buying it.
The idea of putting a bunch of educators in a room and just letting them be, well, educators together was just not working for many of those in attedance. Several comments were clearly coming from a perspective where there was fear that the time wouldn’t be productive and the teachers would goof off, grade papers, or simply cut class. Behaviors which, frankly, we often see in traditional professional development sessions. If we don’t closely control the day, the thinking goes, nothing will get done.
And then, something powerful happened. Slowly but surely, the crowd seemed to shift. But not, to be honest (and with all due respect) because of anything my colleagues shared.
The expertise IN the room – not just IN THE FRONT OF IT – came to the fore.
In true edcamp fashion, the conversation became what mattered most. Yes, inspiring notions were shared, including many helpful operational tidbits, the brilliant edcamp video, and so on. These helped.
But in the end, contributions from the audience (especially, in my view at least from Josh Stumpenhorst) tipped the balance. [DISCLAIMER: any reader of this blog should understand that posts are written by Edcamp Foundation Board Members. I am one.]
Josh’s key point (I’m paraphrasing): teacher-learners at any school run the gamut, from the passionate and intrinsically motivated … to the skeptical and [at worst] completely withdrawn. His school just ran an edcamp-style PD event this week. He missed it (he was here at the ASCD conference) so called to see how it went. He was particularly interested in the reactions by those “typically less enthusiastic” teachers (my words). The result? He was told…
THEY LOVED IT. THEY *ALL* LOVED IT. EVERYONE WORKED THE ENTIRE DAY.
How could they not react that way? Edcamp-style PD:
- respects the individual and their professionalism;
- trusts participants to reflect on their practice and do meaningful work to improve it;
- pushes people to consider new ideas and perspectives; and
- respects everyone’s time by letting THEM DECIDE – not some arbitrary schedule or expensive out-of-district “guru” – how to spend their day.
If you have never been to an edcamp, it can be hard to grasp.
By the end of the session, we sensed a palpable shift in the audience. While there is no way to know how EVERYONE felt (we could have included some Poll Everywhere-style questions at the beginning and at the end) but we do have some data: requests to join the edcamp wiki, the central resource for people interested in the edcamp model.
Here’s an example:
Let’s be clear: we are not saying edcamp-style PD should be the ONLY form of PD in a district. There are plenty of topics that require outside expertise to be brought into a school. Well-respected, experienced experts can do much to help processionals hone the skills they need to be effective in the classroom.
But for many, and for too long, that has been the ONLY FOCUS OF DISTRICT PD. And, all too often, those well-respected, experienced experts fail to engage their audiences. The result? Where we are today.
It’s time for a change. It’s time for your district to consider putting the learners – in this case, the teachers – first.
Here’s where YOU come in.
Afterwards, go back to your district and share what you’ve learned with your district leadership.
Then, plan to put your learners first at your next district PD day with an edcamp or unconference style event.
We’re here to help!