A little more than a year ago, I first heard about EdCamp. EdCamp is an "unconference" where sessions are discussions about topics determined the day of the camp. No one comes with a slide show ready to go or a product to sell. The "rule of two feet" applies which means you're encouraged to find a new session if the one you're in isn't helping you grow or if you're not contributing.
I missed out on the last #edcampbmore (Baltimore) due to a prior engagement, so when I saw yesterday's announced in the summer, I registered and put the word out to my colleagues. I'm proud to say that 10 teachers from my old school (two of us have since moved to other schools) attended together.
As I'm not in the classroom, some sessions weren't going to be that applicable to me. In fact, my friend who is an ELA specialist chose the same sessions I did. However, there was a sufficient range of interesting topics- "Strategies for Boys," "GAFE in the middle school," and "Homework or Not?" piqued my interest, though I chose to attend others.
Session 1- Formative Assessment
I was hoping to get into a conversation with people from other schools who had completed the Formative Assessment for Maryland Educators (FAME) course that I did last year. Unfortunately, the other attendees hadn't completed the course; two were enrolled and the others were interested in knowing more. My colleague and I discussed how it worked for us and our successes. I didn't learn anything about FA from this session but I felt like I made a good contribution, so it was worthwhile. My personal takeaway is that an assessment literacy cohort is forming under MSDE leadership and I need to ask about getting into it.
Session 2- Instructional Coaching
I was surprised how many people attended this session. We filled up all 24 desks! Most everyone in the room was some kind of coach; a handful were administrators. I went in thinking, "I'm new at this so other people are going to have things all figured out and I'm going to get some great ideas." I left thinking, "Huh. I am in a pretty good spot because after a month I'm either doing or have plans to do just about everything that was mentioned." My colleague agreed with me. That's not to say that I'm amazing at my job, but it was comforting to see that there wasn't a silver bullet I was missing! The most often recommended strategies were peer coaching/peer observation and video recording lessons for teachers to watch. I appreciated Jen's suggestion of scheduling all stages of a coaching cycle (pre-conference or pre-observation, time in the classroom, debrief) at once so teachers know what they're signing on for.
Session 3- Standards Based Grades
I've read blog posts about SBG for at least 2 or 3 years and I've been intrigued. Two things have always held me back from jumping in- figuring out the learning targets/how to assess them and the logistics of continually offering retests in a fair way. I appreciated listening to Nicole's (@solvingforx) advice and expertise. It was interesting to hear that her entire school uses SBG, not just the math department. She talked about how she has 6 or 7 learning targets to assess per marking term. She gives two weeks at the end of the term where she doesn't assess new learning targets to count for that term so students still have an opportunity to retake. I anticipate my school system will be reevaluating its grading policies in the near future due to our formative assessment initiative and for many reasons I think we should look at SBG.
Three "small-world" moments for the day:
1. In my first session I got to talking to Jen, a BCPS STAT teacher. Jen used to work with one of my college friends, who recently left public education to work at a private school. The funnier coincidence- it turns out that Jen and I went to high school together (she graduated a year before me) but we didn't ever remember meeting back then.
2. That friend who used to work with Jen? She texted me while I was at the conference to say she only lives a few miles away and did I want to bring my whole group to her apartment afterwards? I thought showing up with 10 people was a bit much, even if she was once a long term sub at our school and knew a couple of them. We had decided to try to get home quickly afterwards, so I declined.
3. We pulled in to Annapolis for a quick sandwich on the way back and it turns out I was spotted by my college roommate's mom. I never saw her, but I got a text from my roommate later asking if her mom had seen correctly.
One #MTBoS moment for the day:
During the "Find someone who" networking game, Nicole (@solvingforx) came right over to find me and said she wanted to convince me to go to #TMC16. I already have that on my calendar. Maybe we will get to fly out together; that would be lots of fun!
Thank you to the organizers and donors who made this day possible. Friends School of Baltimore let us use their beautiful campus and several companies donated product for raffles and funds for breakfast. I even won a prize for recommending people to come to EdCamp.
Now, I'm really excited for February 15th- there will be 4 EdCamps in Maryland that day. If you're nearby (PA, VA, DC, DE) and you have off on Presidents' Day, think about joining us! I'll be attending the Eastern Shore location.
Have you ever been to an EdCamp? What topic would you put on the board if you go to an EdCamp in the future?