Anyone who has taught for more than ten minutes has most likely been to an
education conference of some kind. It could be a math conference. Perhaps one for reading strategies? We’ve all been to them.
I was invited to attend “EdCampOC,” or Education Camp: Orange County 2011. Held in Costa Mesa at Davis Magnet School, I was expecting the usual conference experience. When I arrived at the beautiful school, I signed in (expected), received a name badge (expected), was pointed to the bagels (expected), and then went to some wonderful, creative sessions run by people across the education gamut. They called this an “un-conference” and encouraged us to come and go from sessions as we pleased, and that
nobody ought be offended if the session wasn’t “our thing.”
The primary focus was technology to enhance the educational process, but some sessions weren’t about the latest toys. I spoke about teacher evaluations. Another session featured a group of eighth graders from a private middle school in La Jolla, CA. who planned their own trip to San Francisco. They were given a budget, pointed to the Internet, and told to plan away–everything from logistics to lodging to food. Quite fascinating.
The session I found most interesting was one titled (and I’m not making this up) “Things that Suck.” What could this be? Turns out it was facilitated by a public school teacher who wanted a forum/debate about issues we teachers face in our schools: discipline policies, homework (e.g. do we believe in it?), and professional development. The teacher divided the room into three sections: “suck,” (low opinion of the topic) ”rock,” (good opinion) and neutral. Participants were asked to move to the side of the room that fit their opinion about the topic–and then to the rest of the group explain why we were standing where we were.
For the topic of professional development, most people moved to the “suck” side of the room, meaning we (I was one) thought our school’s professional development wasn’t as good as it could be. A few folks were on the other side of the room, and a few in the middle. Listening to everyone’s opinion was fascinating. Then I began to listen to the voice inside my head, telling me that I wished professional development itself could be run this way; where various voices were heard, and topics weren’t the usual “let’s beat the test” strategies.
Professional development and clever or fresh in the same sentence? It can be done.
Mr. Franklin is a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He is an eleven year veteran and has won District and County Teacher of the Year awards. He was also a recipient of the prestigious Bank of America Community Hero award. Before teaching, he spent five years at Learning Forum, which runs summer camps designed to increase student academic potential. It is a world-wide program.
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