“Great job everyone today! Best part for me was seeing everyone get up and check under their chairs for the prizes. Pretty awesome to see 400 people smile all at the same time. Bravo!” This was feedback that we received on Saturday after running EdCampNJ. That person was only referring to how we started the day! It only got better from there.
To give you some quick background, I somehow found my way onto the organizing committee of EdCampNJ. This should surprise you because I am horrible at any organizational task. I jokingly tell people I am a big picture person who doesn’t always worry about the details. Organizing committees are extremely worried about details. West Windsor we have a problem. Luckily I was only given two jobs to do. Get the food and be obnoxious.
Wow! Two things right in my wheelhouse. I went to Caesars Bagels to purchase the greatest bagels on the planet at six thirty in the morning. There is nothing better in the world than his bagels. If you ever come visit we will go and eat there. Done deal. I rolled up to pick up the bagels and he looked at my vehicle and started laughing. He told me there was no way that it was going to fit in my car. Lucky for me, he lent me his minivan so there was plenty of room and time for the bagels to be delivered.
My second job was handing out prizes on the Prize Patrol. Chrissy Romano and I would bust into rooms swat prize patrol style being as loud and disruptive as possible. I have to admit I felt like the white Oprah. I was yelling out, “You get a prize and you get a prize” to hundreds of smiling faces. Surprisingly Chrissy was louder and more obnoxious than me!! That was some ridiculous fun. Everyone should get a chance to smile that often.
Time to get to the education part of the day. I was able to go to one session with Mike Ritzius. As I walked in the door I heard him ask why people were there. I truthfully retorted I was there because of him. I had no idea what his facilitation was about. I didn’t read the title of it. I hold him in such high esteem that if he is talking about anything I will listen. His idea was about what professional development and leadership truly were. It was much too high level for me to begin to fully master in 45 minutes.
He truly did a fantastic job of facilitating. He would explain a concept to us and then we would discuss that concept with our immediate group for 5 minutes. After that time the whole group would talk for 5 minutes.
My first big takeaway from his session was that PD should look up at the system and use the strengths of their teachers to drive professional development instead of looking down on teachers from a deficit mindset. (sketch notes via Adam Schoenbart)
My second takeaway was that in between order and chaos lies leadership. We need norms and routines while also allowing autonomy and self-reflection. His visual of management falling in between order and control was brilliant. We did not discuss this, and I may be off base, but we need both leadership and management in our school. We can discuss this more at length in the future. (sketch notes via Adam Schoenbart)
The final idea we didn’t delve into as much as I would have like to. This was called the Art of Hosting. I have found this link that will help explain the idea more. I am going to follow up with Mike and really delve into these ideas much more. If you would like to contact him his twitter is @mritzius. (sketch notes via Adam Schoenbart)
The sessions that were facilitated were amazing! We had people speaking to our students about the election, the lbgtqia community, sketch noting and so much more. The emphasis was not just about some new tech tools that look cool. Social justice was somewhat represented. I did not see any sessions about culturally responsive classrooms. I would hope in the future someone would be comfortable facilitating a session or want to learn more about that subject. If it was not placed on the board people either didn’t want to speak about it or were uncomfortable in facilitating the discussion. We need our educators in NJ, PA, and NY to step up and tackle the elephant in our society.
The highlight of the day was seeing the teacher I hold in the highest esteem possible. If I had to create my super teacher it would be her. She is not a Twitter superstar or a Facebook Edustar. You do not know her. Her technology skills will not wow you. She just learned how to text within the last year. You will never catch her presenting on the conference circuit. None of that matters. All that matters is that she cares more about her students than anyone I have ever met.
This teacher goes to her student’s houses, shows up to their extracurriculars, and buys them Christmas and birthday presents. There is a real possibility that her students will curse at her, throw things at her, and possibly attack her. They have done those things before and will do them again. I have watched her yell at a student in one second and comfort them in the next. She never holds their words or actions against them. She understands the need for rewards and punishments. Her class is the epitome of fairness and consistency.
Her students and their guardians love her in a way that I will never know. They understand that she cares about them on a deeper level than anyone outside of their families can possibly do. You will not find one child or parent who walks away from her class without being changed for the better. If someone told me I was half the teacher she is I would beam with pride for days. If you think I am exaggerating in even the slightest about her go ask Jay Billy.
This powerhouse of a teacher has taught for over 45 years. She showed up on a Saturday morning to attend an Edcamp. This amazes me. A teacher who is the master, the chief, the greatest educator I have ever crossed paths with bar none is willing to come out on a Saturday to better herself. I am not ashamed to say that when I saw her walking across the parking lot I ran to her and hugged her with a ferocity that may have scared her. I held her hand and walked her inside all the while chatting away like a bubbly teenager.
This EdCamp was wonderful for a variety of reasons. I grew way closer to a group of educators that are walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. I learned a lot during Mike Ritzius’s session. I really felt like I facilitated a session about movement where I learned as much or more from the crowd than they learned from me. All that pales in comparison to seeing the teacher that I want to be like coming out on a Saturday to get better. If she can come out why can’t you?
I am extremely grateful and proud to be associated with this group of individuals below. They were a blast to work with and help plan EdCampNJ. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with. Thank you all.