"Questions are the purest form of expressed curiosity." ~ Steven Katz
Have you ever read a blog post and said to yourself as you were reading it "I was just discussing that the other day"? Well it happened to me recently. Last week we began the process of planning for learning networks within our community of schools. This is an opportunity for teachers to work with like grade teachers in other schools for professional learning. This year is a little different than in the past as administrators have been given more leeway on how the money for the release time is spent. More autonomy has been given to administrators and teachers as long as the professional learning is based on Collaborative Inquiry, Differentiated Instruction and/or the use of data. This is much more open than the prescriptive directions given in the past. So with the ball in our court administrators in my community of schools met to discuss how to structure the networks. As we sat around the table and talked about possibilities it became clear to me that a perfect way to meet the needs of teachers was to utilize an EdCamp model for our professional learning. I leaned over to my friend @turnmeluce and said "isn't this a perfect opportunity to use an EdCamp model?". She was thinking the same thing.
After giving a brief explanation to the group about the EdCamp model and how it could work with our group of teachers, they agreed it seemed like a great idea. I say "seemed" because I was the only person around the table that had actually attended an EdCamp. Not only were they putting a bit of trust in the model, they were also trusting my judgement. I was a little surprised that the group wasn't a little more hesitant as I know how difficult change can be for most people. I guess that says a lot about the professionalism of the great administrators working in my community of schools. Leaving the meeting I truly thought we were embarking on an innovative method of supporting teachers in their learning, which we all know is the most important factor in improving student achievement. But then on the drive home, fear and panic set in. Questions started running through my mind - What if teachers don't like the idea?, How are we going to explain to them what an EdCamp model is? How do we link their professional learning to school improvement plans and problems of practice? Am I being set up here? If it fails, it was all Fife's idea! I started second guessing myself and the idea of using an EdCamp model. I immediately called another friend of mine @sbruyns who is a Learning Supervisor with our district. I ran the whole idea by her, along with my apprehensions. Luckily, she has been to a few EdCamps and is a great source of experience in leading the instructional program in schools. Quickly she calmed my fears and we began to discuss what would be needed to make it work.
It was over the next couple of days that I began to read blog posts that were discussing the same issue. Each post gave similar reasons for moving to an EdCamp style model - teacher preference, job-embedded learning, actively involved in the construction of their program and the ability to learn from one another. As we continue to plan our school-based EdCamp professional learning I'm more confident that it will meet the needs of teachers and produce exciting results. I'll be writing a follow-up post on the experience in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out!
I'd love to hear what your thoughts are about school-based professional learning and the impact an EdCamp model could have in your school.