My EdCamp Leadership Experience

Five out of my last six summers have been spent either in Bethlehem, PA at Lehigh University or in Miami at the PTC.  However, having already completed my goals at those fine institutions I figured that this summer I’d focus on spending time with family and friends instead of racing from one spot to the next.  That being said, and as I mentioned in my last 2 Cents post, I still had professional learning plans for the summer.

I’m about half way through The Multiplier Effect and the #admin2b Twitter Chats have been excellent, even though I missed a couple due to travel.  More to come on that when I’ve finished the book.

Similarly, I’m rolling along nicely on Insights:  How Expert Principals Make Difficult Decisions which I’m reviewing this summer for

Today, I want to reflect on the amazing experience I had yesterday at the edCamp Leadership unconference in Chicago.  This was my first unconference and it far exceeded my already high expectations!  For those who’ve never been…basically when you show up there is no schedule, this gets set during the first half hour or so as people bring ideas forth (or share on a Google Doc) and offer up different topics.  For the most part these are discussion sessions instead of teaching or “sage on the stage” style presentations.

The edCamp Leadership idea has been around for a while but this was the first year that it was coordinated on such a grand scale.  There were 17 sites around the country involved on the same date, at the same time.  #edcampldr was on fire all day long as people shared all the amazing learning that was happening at their specific sites.  I attended in Chicago where we were hosted by the amazing crew at East Leyden High School, huge shout out to them!

At each session there was something new for me, from personalized learning to, standards based grading, to Google Hangouts, even the session about “Getting Started in a New District” was interesting as I’m preparing to move into my new school, Academia Cotopaxi in Quito, Ecuador.  The insights and perspectives that were shared throughout the day were eye-opening for me in many ways.  As someone who’s been working in international schools more than US schools throughout my career I don’t always identify with the struggles that US based educators present.  However, during EdCamp Leadership the conversations weren’t about state laws, unions, or political mumbo jumbo; every discussion I heard was focused on being a better educator for the benefit of the students.  It didn’t matter if someone was working in a school in Illinois, Wisconsin, China, or Mars…it was all about the kids, anyone could follow these conversations.

Along with all the wonderful professional learning that was happening throughout the day I was excited to meet some of the amazing educators who I’ve been following on Twitter for the last couple years.  Having been in China and struggling to access the internet at times, let alone social media, many of these outstanding educators have been my source of professional information, whether they knew it or not.  It was inspiring to meet so many wonderful educators, it was truly an all-star lineup of educational leaders from the midwest region!

Finally, and perhaps the biggest take away for me, was the amazing connections that all of these educational leaders had already established…many without ever meeting face to face!  Lots of these people were clearly friends prior to this unconference but it was shocking to learn that so many of them had, so far, only met via Twitter, Voxer, or some other form of social media.  These educators, who previously may have functioned in isolation at their respective schools had found friends, mentors, and resources without leaving the comfort of their homes or schools.  The collegial atmosphere and laughter at lunch time and throughout the day was inspiring beyond words, awesome stuff.

EdCamp Leadership was my first edcamp but it most definitely won’t be my last!!  I look forward to maintaining the connections I made yesterday and as I continue to learn from these amazing educators.  If you’ve ever thought about attending an edcamp then stop hesitating and get moving…have a look here for edcamps coming up near you.

A Parting 2 Cents

It seems like a long time ago that I started writing my 2 Cents!  For the last SCIS version of my 2 Cents I’m going to be a bit more long winded than usual.  However, I want to offer a few summer time options for those who haven’t already ironed out every single minute of their holiday.  I’m not advocating for any one idea over another but I think any successful summer will include at least one of these four things.

Personally, for my summer, I’ll be working on organizing a visa to Ecuador, spending time with family and friends in America, getting back to working out and eating healthy, and acting as the Officiant in my sister’s wedding just days before Amy and I take off for Quito.  During all of that time I’ve also committed to reading two professional books (one for an online book chat and the other to review for Middleweb) and attending a 1-day “Ed Camp” in Chicago.  I’m excited for these professional opportunities which have all come via my professional learning community (PLC).

My recommendations for the summer:

1.  Hit the beach, mountains, trails, parks, ocean, lake, or whatever you can find outdoors!

Get outside and enjoy the fresh air (I’m hoping you can get away from a polluted city for this one).  Spend a few days camping next to a river with no wifi or mobile phone access, unplug and enjoy Mother Nature at her finest.  Give yourself some time to just enjoy all that nature has to offer without the hustle and bustle of the ‘outside world’.  If camping isn’t your thing then take a walk, go for a bike ride, or just sit and enjoy a park…but do it often.  Take a road trip, see a new place, and get out of the city-life for a while.  All of these things will help rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit!

2.  Take care of yourself.

Remember that New Year’s Resolution…yeah, I know the feeling…I was too stressed and too cold in the winter to really get anything productive going.  It’s too dark in the mornings and dreary at night, who wants to work out?  I wanted a nice warm meal full of comfort food and some wine on the couch at the end of those days, not an exercise class and salad!!  However, now the sun is shining and we can sleep past 6AM!  So track down your trainers and get moving…10,000 steps a day is a lot easier to manage in the summer when there are no papers to grade or meetings to attend.  Cook some homemade meals for your friends and family who still have to work through the summer, enjoy a nice dinner together and help them relieve some stress too.  The summer is your time to take care of yourself and feel great!

3.  Read, read, read!

If you’re like me you might feel like summer is the perfect time to squeeze in some of that professional reading you’ve promised yourself you’d do.  That’s fine but don’t skip the reading for pleasure too!!  (I’ve got Game of Thrones book 5 waiting for me)  Whether you’ve got a book waiting or not, you might also consider reading some of the books that are hot with our kids right now.  This article is a great one and lists five young adult books that adults would also enjoy.  I’ve read a few on this list (Book Thief is awesome!) and agree that knowing what our kids are into is a great way to connect and relate to our middle school age kids.  If you’re thinking that professional reading might be in the works for the beach then have a look at this article, some great tips there too.  The old saying of “don’t mix work with pleasure” goes out the door here…when it comes to summer reading, mix away!

4.  Reconnect at your own risk!

It goes without saying that living overseas requires a long time away from friends and family who are back ‘home’ or elsewhere.  However, if you’re like me it only takes a week or so at ‘home’ before you feel like it’s time for a break!  There are a lot of family and friends who want to spend as much time with you as possible and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the attention.  In a sense it’s almost like teaching…there’s only one of you but there’s a seemingly endless number of people who want/need your time and energy.  Be sure to take some “Me Time” this summer and don’t let yourself get run down while trying to connect with everyone.  I often joke at the end of summer that “I need to get back to work so I can relax!”  It’s easy to feel that way, especially if you’re bouncing from couch to guest room all summer.  Enjoy the time with family and friends but be sure to enjoy some time alone as well.

Enjoy the last week with our kids, it’s going to be a wildly emotional ride for many of them (and us!!)  Hang in there and enjoy the laughs and memories and embrace the inevitable tears.  Everyone has made a lot of strong connections here in the SCIS community and it will be tough to part ways, no matter how long you’ve been here.  Say what you need to say to those you’ve grown close with, trade contact info, and be confident that you’ll connect again soon!