Today September 22, 2018, I attended a fantastic event called #EdCampNewark organized by the charismatic Juli B. I don’t really know how Juli is the organizer of both EdCampNewark and EdCampBrooklyn. It is a ton of work and they aren’t even near each other! Regardless the gathering that Juli organized was amazing.
I will start off acknowledging my bias about Newark. I was slightly nervous about going cause I have been conditioned to be scared of cities. I do not usually visit cities. This bias has some grounding in race no doubt. I was aware of what it was and why I was thinking it. I had also just listened to a Scene on Radio podcast in the Seeing White series that talked about a guy being held up with a knife in Philly. That was there in my mind somewhere as well. The idea that most parts of cities are fine has to be acknowledged. It also has to be acknowledged that there are parts of a city that I do not belong in as well. My mind was at ease when it settled on the idea that Juli would not plan anything where I would be unsafe. Those biases were a large part created by society telling me cities are scary. Shoot how many Law and Order episodes do I watch before deciding I don’t want to go to New York City?
There is a lot going on in a city and usually, parking scares me. I never know where to park and today was no different. Was my car safe? Was I safe? Would I remember where I parked? Would I get a ticket? (a ton of people did) I don’t know if all white people think like I do. Who knows? I am a mess. A hot mess. I first parked in a spot and I couldn’t figure out how to use the meter. It had an app then I had to load $25 on the app. I got back in the car and found a lot to park in around the corner. When I came out of the EdCamp the gates were closed and I couldn’t figure out how to get in. I dropped my speaker over a six-foot wrought iron fence followed by my backpack. I scaled the fence and jumped in. As I walked to my car I saw a woman casually open a small side gate on the other side and walk in the lot. What. A. Dummy.
I rolled into the building early as I usually tend to do. This allows me time to get lost on the way there as well as gives me time to scope the joint out. Once I manspread my things on a table I asked what help was needed. I pitched in where I could and overall the check-in was smooth.
The official day started off with Principal Kafele giving a rousing
speech sermon. Most EdCamps don’t have opening speakers but when Principal Kafele says he will speak you gladly accept. His sermon energized the crowd. It was a little more rah-rah than I am typically a fan of. I personally don’t need to hear about how I need passion in my teaching because that’s not the cup that I need filled. (EdCamps are on Saturday and voluntary so simply by showing up most of us have the passion already.) The room seemed quite receptive to his message and it was obvious that most people enjoyed hearing the words that were coming out of his mouth. The room was silent and people were on the edge of their seat. There was no doubt that he started the day off with electricity.
The first session I facilitated with Shivan Persad (@shivanpersadedu) was titled Tech Yo Self B4 Yo Wreck Yo Self. Mainly because it makes me laugh. During the session, we talked about the four horsemen of tech: Seesaw, Flipgrid, Plickers, EdPuzzle. These tools allow you to run a class using technology to increase learning and make assessments better. The room was cool because two Spanish teachers (teachers who teach Spanish not teachers from Spain) lead a lot of the discussions about tech. It is fantastic when specialists can show how they use tech when they teach the entire school!
There was also an interesting discussion about how we spy on our kids when they engage in tech. Some programs allow you to see what the students are doing while others will automatically scan their work and send alerts to the administration if something raises a certain flag. This is problematic on multiple levels. Having companies spy on our students is super invasive. If we are not telling our students this is being done that takes the worry to a whole other level. I am hoping schools are thinking about what they use and why they are using it to monitor and control our students.
The second session I facilitated was movement in the classroom. Whenever I do this session it feels like I am presenting more than facilitating. I made sure that I went around the room and had the participants give examples of what they did in their rooms. We laughed a lot and we were able to sneak in social justice discussions as well. The ladies and Shivan were a blast to hang with.
The third and final session I co-facilitated with Fadé Ojeikere . This was the session I was most excited about! Social Justice and Intersectionality! I was in Newark, in a room filled with black and brown people, this conversation was gonna be solid. The session was placed in the courtyard in between the buildings. (Note to Juli unlock the gate so we don’t have to walk a full block to get in next time!) The setting was worth the time and effort though. If you look that is the fantastic Okaikor in the hat with Black Feminist shirt on! We started the session off listening to the song Strange Fruit, on my traveling speaker, sang by Nina Simone. The lyrics and the pictures of lynchings shake your essence. I did learn that the song was written by a male Jewish teacher and poet.
Fadé played then played the song Duckworth by Kendrick Lamar. He explained to us the meaning of how Kendrick was explaining how it all could have changed for him. This lead us to the conversation about #HipHopEd and Dr. Emdin. Fadé spoke passionately about introducing content that our kids can relate to.
Earlier I mentioned that Okaikor was at the session. If you don’t know Okaikor knows more about intersectionality that the whole patio combined. She dropped knowledge bomb after knowledge bomb on us all while graciously giving others the time to speak. I could honestly just listen to her for hours speak about anti-blackness and how everything stems from there. She is heavily involved with the MAPSO Freedom School.
The discussion did not go as we had planned. We really wanted to talk about what people were doing in their classrooms and the conversations went to resources and personal stories. It was even better than I had imagined. People were engaged and speaking freely. Fadé created a list of Twitter handles and emails so we can provide support moving forward.
I will close with my glows and grows. Before I do that I would like to publicly thank Juli B for giving her time and her energy to this unpaid passion project. The day was a huuuge success!
Glow: Principal Kafele getting people psyched.
Glow: So many People of Color!
Glow: HAVING A DJ!!!! Yes. They had a DJ. Sick.
Groan: Locked gate to the courtyard.
Glow: Tons of Food
Glow: This was not about prizes or swag. I see EdCamps going too far in the direction of giving out prizes at the end. It cheapens the day.
Glow: Juli B. You are awesome.