On Saturday I went to EdCampNj in New Brunswick. This was the first time in a long time that I went solely as a participant. I didn’t facilitate nor do anything to assist the conference. I went just to learn and hang out with my people. What a glorious feeling it was! There were no pressures and I didn’t have to get there at 7 in the morning!
When I rolled up I saw Jen Duda. It is always a pleasure to catch up with her and find out how Mercer County Special Services is operating. I milled around for a bit saying hello to Stacey Lindes who is always a delight to speak with. Her bright smile and enthusiasm always has me walking away feeling better about life. For me seeing my #PLF (Personal Learning Family thanks to Sarah Thomas for coining that) is what keeps me coming back for more.
The first session I attended was called Restorative Practices and Justice. It was masterfully facilitated by Josue Failaise. Josue works as a provider of PD & executive level training through the combined efforts of Rutgers University, PreK-12 districts, and their professional partners. The session rocked for two main reasons. The first idea Josue made clear was the difference between equity and equality. I left understanding with a better understanding that equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same.
The second part that Josue made clear was the difference between Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices. As I understand it Restorative Justice is an alternative to using punishment to manage misbehavior and is embedded in the policies of the district. The Restorative Practices are how we go about implementing Restorative Justice in the classroom. It is about building community, addressing and repairing the harm, and giving kids the opportunities to share their authentic selves. Check out the session notes here!
The next session I attended was facilitated by Mike Ritzius and titled Most PD is Meaningless – Lets Change That. Mike is a Unionist, Designer of PD, Organizer of Action, Host of Conversations, Rouser of Rabble, and Co-Founder of the Edcamp Foundation & Movement. Yes, he co-founded the original EDCAMP! #legend Mike’s session is all about identifying the various ways to deliver and participate in professional development. I won’t summarize his session because it is too complex to talk about quickly in a blog. I would highly recommend you follow him on Twitter and take a look at the session notes here.
The third session I did the classic EdCamp split. The idea behind the rule of two feet is that sometimes there are various sessions you want to see. The solution is simple. Go to both! The first session was Student Led Conferences & Digital Portfolios hosted by Lisa Capote @capote_lisa, and Crystal Favours firstname.lastname@example.org. I loved learning about how the students ran the conferences and the Google sites were a showcase where the students could show evidence of their authentic learning. Check out how to set up the Google sites and more in their session notes here.
The other session I went into late was Wellness Edu: Making Teachers Comfortable facilitated by James Overton (@coach_overton). The session focused on various ways that teachers can keep their candle burning bright throughout the year. The one gold nugget I took away from the session is that you can do a step contest limiting the time to only during the school day! This forces the teachers to move during the day. What a brilliant idea. Check out more from their session here.
The final session was the greatest session of the day. It was a continuation of an earlier session called Courageous Conversations part 2. It was facilitated by three brilliant ladies Dr. E. Mamman: @noyiMic, Nadine Sanchez @nay_sanch, and Aquaus Kelly @aquaus. The room was packed! The talking points revolved around the idea of the four agreements. I first heard about the Four Agreements from Andy Milne (@carmelhealth).
The Four Agreements are:
1. Stay engaged: Staying engaged means “remaining morally, emotionally,
intellectually, and socially involved in the dialogue”.
2. Experience discomfort: This norm acknowledges that discomfort is inevitable,
especially, in dialogue about race, and that participants make a commitment to
bring issues into the open. It is not talking about these issues that create
divisiveness. The divisiveness already exists in the society and in our schools. It
is through dialogue, even when uncomfortable, the healing and change begin.
3. Speak your truth: This means being open about thoughts and feelings and not
just saying what you think others want to hear.
4. Expect and accept nonclosure: This agreement asks participants to “hang out
in uncertainty” and not rush to quick solutions, especially in relation to racial
understanding, which requires ongoing dialogue.
The discussions were rich. The people in the room spoke their truth. One white participant honestly stated that she censors herself sometimes when she knows someone is related to a police officer. (she knew that was wrong) That started an interesting conversation.
It is hard for me as a white male to figure out my space in these conversations. I am doing the work so I feel confident in my ability to have the conversations but I don’t want to overstep my bounds. Honestly, we hear enough from white males everywhere else and I don’t want to be the one who takes over the room.
I heard a couple of ideas that I wanted to push back on but couldn’t. One was the idea that white people can’t lead this conversation. White people have to be leading this while simultaneously paying People of Color for their work, specifically Black women, for their work. This is why I buy books written by Black women and give money when links are posted online to Patreons or Paypal accounts.
Another idea that made me want to push back was when a white woman talked about how she struggled and we don’t know what people are going through in their personal lives. While this is true centering your life as a white woman in a conversation about race seemed to derail and missed the point.
I do not quite know how to navigate these situations just yet. Where is my place in this conversation? Do I push back? Do I let the facilitators take care of what I see as an issue? Are they issues at all? So many questions and so little answers.
Regardless of the minor issues I saw, the conversation was fantastic. I left the room believing that change is happening. The ripples are spreading.
I will leave you with my final glows and grows from the conference:
Glow: New Brunswick High School is an amazing facility.
Grow: The internet blocked most sites that people attempted to get on. Open the networks up so we can access any site.
Grow: We have never had to pay for food before at EdCampNJ. Can the food be sponsored by NJEA or New Brunswick PTA?
Glow: So many People of Color.
Glow: New Jersey Educators are fantastic. They show up in droves and make events like these so successful.