My EdCamp Greenville PLN and I just finished presenting at Summer Academy put on by Greenville County Schools. Summer Academy is a 4-day long professional development conference that our district provides to teachers in the summer. The great thing about it is educators can check out a variety of sessions, and find the ones that interest them. Also, it’s taught by teachers and teacher leaders who are actually in classrooms and schools in Greenville County that have truly practiced the things they are teaching.
Before I get to the incredible strategies, let me just say that this 3 hour session was JAM PACKED with good stuff to make teachers better. Oh my goodness. As a matter of fact, later in this post is a link to the Padlet we created also, because all the tools, strategies, and “hacks” we unpacked just have to be shared.
Roughly 20 educators from pre-K all the way to high school joined us this afternoon. The title of our session was “Get Hacked: Identifying your Teaching Super Powers”. Our goal was to facilitate an EdCamp-style session where participants could share best practices that worked for them, or learn from their peers. We divided the session up into “villains” or areas where teachers and administrators may see roadblocks or areas in teaching that could use improvement. These areas were classroom environment, grading/assessment, lesson planning/engagement, communication, leadership, and teachers supporting teachers. At the beginning, much like in an EdCamp, we had participants share their individual areas of concern for each “villain” on sticky notes. In the normal EdCamp model, participants share what they would like to share about or learn about on sticky notes, and then sessions are built out of the interest. Since we didn’t have all day or a school-full of rooms to break up in, as a team, we developed the things we would discuss, and polled the attendees for specifics within each area that they wanted to tackle.
The participants shared their sticky note “villains’ all while completing the GooseChase that we had actually introduced last Wednesday via social media. GooseChase is an app-based scavenger hunt where participants complete the tasks to earn points. This is a fantastic tool to use with students with 1-to-1 devices. It’s so fantastic, in fact, GooseChase gave us a free year Educator Upgrade to share with the winner of our GooseChase. Along with this fun, we posted the phone number of our missing teammate, Thomas, up on the board and challenged the participants to FaceTime him, and the first to get an answer earned an EdTechTeam neoprene zip bag. That’s one thing about our team–we all truly believe engagement does matter, and it doesn’t stop at the students!
Each of us EdCamp team members had prepared a few hacks to share, but we really wanted the discussion to be organic and laid back, just like EdCamp is. It just so happened that we had a fantastic bunch of teachers from many backgrounds that were eager to learn, share, and participate. We had such rich discussions and enlightened each other with a variety of tips and tricks to make teaching easier and ultimately be better teachers for our students, their parents, and our colleagues.
It would be impossible for me to recreate all of the rich discussion, laughs, and learning that went on today, but Shalonda painstakingly compiled the following Padlet that is jam packed with all the amazing resources and talking points we covered today.
This is what we wanted teachers to walk away with. It’s what we believe in, as EdCamp organizers. When teachers come to a PD, they want to walk out with something they can take and put into action immediately–something that will truly make them better. Teachers who are equipped with “super powers” like these are able to provide thoughtful, engaging, student-centered learning experiences for kids, which is truly the ultimate goal. And what’s better than that?
We closed by addressing “Teachers Supporting Teachers”. This is so important! If it were not for these people, I don’t know where I would be professionally right now! In order to bring our best for kiddos, we have to have a strong tribe that will lift us up and encourage us on a daily basis. Some of the takeaways from this discussion were:
- Create a group text of like-minded colleagues.
- Build a tribe of people in diverse positions with varying strengths.
- Step out of your comfort zone and make connections outside of your school and district.
- Meet up for meals, coffee, or outings.
For me, there is nothing that inspires me like seeing teachers empowered to be the absolute best they can for their students. Taking precious time out to participate in professional development opportunities to recharge ourselves is such an effective way to improve ourselves. It’s also important to remember that teaching is a contact sport. We touch the lives of not only our kids, but colleagues and administrators. We have got to lean on each other and shout the positive, because we all deserve to be better.