The 5th Annual EdCamp Long Island took place last Saturday at Mineola High School. About 400 educators attended an amazing day of learning. There so much to say about the planning and preparation that went into this event. It’s my sincere hope that many people who attended EdCampLI will blog about it to spread the good word about this dynamic, personalized version of professional development.
An awesome session I facilitated with the amazing Danielle Gately (@dmgately) was representative of what makes the EdCamp model of learning so extraordinary.
It had been a dynamic, energetic day that begin for most people around 8 AM with breakfast and fervent conversation with other passionate educators. Danielle and I booked a session in the 2 PM slot on the topic: Work / Life Balance. There were only five other sessions in this slot so we figured this was a good time to post a conversation. We expected a sparse crowd because lunch was awesome, there was a lot of food, it was a gorgeous autumn day, and it was Saturday after all, life beaconed outside the halls of the venue.
We walked into a room that was packed with people. Seriously, standing room only. We have led this session before and we normally get a pretty good crowd, this time the room was bulging at the seams. Danielle and I looked at each other and looked at the people in the room and started by saying,” We hope you didn’t come looking for answers from us, because we came looking for answers from you!”
For the next hour a powerful conversation on this important topic transpired that likely had a transformative effect on every participant.
Nobody has all the answers
It’s been said that at Ed Camp, the smartest person in the room, is the room. This was never more true than in this session. We learned about Amazon Alexa, Peapod, Checklists, Google calendar, Calm, Headspace, Voxer, apple watches, and many other tools and hacks to manage life and work. People shared strategies, tips, and struggles. Everyone who left the session came away with ideas to meet the tremendous challenges of balancing their professional and personal lives.
Honesty is the currency of learning
Participants felt comfortable sharing their personal stories about work / life balance in a way that was remarkable. One teacher talked about how, on her commute home from work, she often passes by a beautiful bench by a lake. She invariably thinks to herself, “I wish I had time to stop and go down there and sit for awhile.” So on one occasion she stopped her car and did just that, visited the bench by the water. When she returned to her car, she looked in her watch and noted that she had been gone for exactly 7 minutes. Seven minutes that made huge difference in her thinking and emotions that day. This story made a profound impression on me as I’m sure it did on the others who attended our session. There is something uniquely invitational about the passion and energy of EdCamp that promotes this kind of candor and openness.
We need each other
So many people at the session exchanged Twitter handles, email addresses and phone numbers. The conversation continued at the fifth session at a nearby restaurant where many participants stopped by for a drink and to continue talking about this topic as well as all the learning that took place throughout the day. I am certain that these connections will fortify these busy educators as they navigate the challenges of the hectic year ahead.
It can be difficult to describe the magic of the Ed camp model. It’s liberating to cast off the formalities, restrictions, and passivity of conventional educational contexts (read: SCHOOL) and embrace a mode of learning that elevates choice, participation and sharing. When I’m asked to give an example of the power of EdCamp, I will describe the amazing session that took place this past Saturday on the topic of Work / Life balance. We wish you were there!