Flipping Teachers with Conversation, Choice and Voice by Laura Gilchrist

Kevin Honeycutt was the guest speaker at our convocation this past August. He spoke eloquently about the power of teachers--in one day, in one small moment in time—to ‘Flip a Kid’ and turn them into believers in themselves and their genius! This comment resonated strongly with all staff in my district. A big reason we all went into education was to flip and inspire kids.


Edcamps change the way you think about teaching

Edcamps have power to flip teachers, who, by the way, are then ignited to inspire and flip more kids!

How do I know this? Edcamp Omaha flipped me in 2012 and I’ve been supporting and organizing edcamps ever since. I see the good edcamps do for teachers, kids, and communities. I went up to Edcamp Omaha in 2012 by myself, not knowing anyone, after Kyle Pace told me I should go to an upcoming edcamp. I listened to him but I questioned myself a couple times on the way to the tweetup the night before. “What are you thinking? You know no one!” I’ll never forget the drive back from Omaha to KC. I thought my brain was going to explode with possibilities and ideas. I was smiling big. It was exhilarating!


Do teachers need to be flipped? 

Yes. Teachers need to be flipped back to the growth-mindset, excited and innovative learning state they had before adapting to stagnant school culture, traditional ‘sit and git’ PD, and tight school schedules with little to no collaboration time. Teachers go into teaching because they are lifelong learners who believe in kids. Traditional PD, with its lack of choice and teacher voice, shuts down the collaborative nature and artistic/inspiring aspect of student-centered teaching. I see the HUGE smiles, the excitement, and the release of potential and happiness as teachers leave an edcamp. I see the newfound hope shining outward from their tweets and blog posts. Once the fire is lit, teachers take this enthusiasm back to their kids, as well as the new ideas, pedagogies, and possibilities. 


How do Edcamps flip teachers?

Edcamps flip teachers via choice, voice, and conversation/collaboration. Edcamps are all about face-to-face ‘collisions’--the most powerful form of learning. The relationships formed at an edcamp are then nurtured via social media. The thing that really did it for me at my first edcamp was the freedom to ‘Go Where I Grow,’ also called the ‘Law of 2 Feet.’ I could go to any classroom I wanted to during a session and it would be ok to leave for another—and facilitators will not be offended. I was so excited about this—just being able to go where I wanted to go and learn in my own way. I was also floored at the powerful learning that happened in the halls and in rooms via simple conversations with individuals and groups. An edcamp day really is about you as a professional educator learner. 


Teacher-centered Professional Learning must be a top priority in schools and districts. 

Teacher learning is just as important as student learning, and is a missing piece of the puzzle for many schools trying to turn things around. Principals should be expected to incorporate teacher-centered, choice/voice professional learning for teachers. Inspired teachers inspire kids.


Edcamps have the power to flip SCHOOLS. 

It’s true! The edcamp model can be adapted and brought into your school as one type of choice-based, teacher-centered professional learning. It requires no money and grows teacher leaders. Edcamps have the power to unite teachers, parents, and students into a big learning community via conversation, voice, and choice. There are edcamps, student camps and even parent camps, as well as hybrids. Edcamps can shift climate and then the culture of learning in a school. I’ve witnessed the flip, the shift in energy and empowerment in both the schools I’ve started edcamps in. 


Edcamp Foundation 

I give monthly to Edcamp Foundation because Edcamps changed my professional life. I can’t fathom who I was before edcamps. I never knew I cared so much about education beyond my classroom until edcamps. I’ve been to over 17 edcamps since 2012, my first one being Edcamp Omaha. I met the following people at Edcamp Omaha 2012 who still impact me today: Kristina Peters, Josh Allen, Anthony Purcell, Christine Ruder, Brent Catlett, Eliu Paopao, Toby Brown, Matt Gomez, Michelle Baldwin, Craig Badura, Barb Gilman, and more. I am on the organizing teams for EdcampKC and Edcamp Leadership KC. I’ve also planned and launched edcamp PD at two schools and coached educators to start edcamps at their own schools. I am forever grateful to you, every edcamp attendee and organizer, for nurturing educators and growing positivity in education with your presence and passion. I am thankful to Edcamp Foundation for providing support and vision for educator professional learning in the present and boldly into the future! 


By Laura Gilchrist, Instructional Coach Turner High School