Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thoughts from nErDcampMI

Twice this summer, I have left my apartment and hit the road BEFORE STARBUCKS IS EVEN OPEN. TWICE! And both times it's been worth it. I'm not saying I enjoyed leaving at 3:45am to pick up a colleague to drive to Michigan (we were in ANOTHER STATE by the time Starbucks opened), but I would do it again. I probably will do it again next summer. (Also, what happened to 24-hour Starbucks locations?)

Here are some highlights:

Finding Diverse YA Lit for Diverse YA Readers (Session Notes):

One thing I sometimes struggle with at conferences is whether or not to go to sessions led by my friends. They're my friends. I talk to them frequently online (and follow their tweets and reviews and . . . ).

I'm glad that this time I stuck with my friends.

This session was a true example of the edcamp ideal that everyone is the expert. The room was full, and nearly everyone in there could have led an all-day PD session on diverse books. Seriously, I've been to those one-day workshops where someone covers the best new books, and while those workshops are pretty good, this hour was better. WAY better. The titles came fast and furious, accompanied by nods and affirmations from the room. I don't always look at notes from sessions, but the above list is a terrific resource. This was the best hour of PD I've had this year, with a room full of experts, and I'm grateful that Cindy and Sarah put this on the idea board.

How NOT to Kill the Mockingbird (Session Notes)

If the session above was a room full of experts pooling their knowledge about diverse YA lit, then my first session after lunch was a dozen colleagues working on one of the eternal problems of English instruction in high school. How do we balance required texts and choice reading? What do we do with a required text that is too easy for some students and impossible for others? How do we teach without worksheets if the rest of the team swears by the packet? And how does this all happen with the reality of testing and more testing?

We might have discovered more questions than solutions, but everyone in the room came away with something to try next year, and the knowledge that other teachers are struggling with the same tensions. I wish every faculty and team meeting could be this useful.

Where do we go from here?

Well, in my case, we went to two breweries. (Perhaps I was influenced by this session.) (Stay with me, I swear this is relevant.)

Dark Horse Brewing, Marshall, Michigan
Bell's Brewing, Kalamazoo, Michigan

We needed to kill some time before driving back to Chicago in order to avoid rush hour, so we stopped for both appetizers and dinner. And because both times we sat at the bar instead of at tables, we ended up talking to our neighbors, and inevitably they asked us what had brought us to Michigan.

So we told them about nErDcampMI.

I forget sometimes that not everyone has heard of the Nerdy Book Club, or edcamps, or even reading and writing workshop. Most people, if they think about education, think about their own experience, or their child's, or what they hear in the media. And that, of course, is not the full story.

As educators, we need to tell our stories to the larger community.

When someone asks what you did this summer, or why you were in Michigan, or even what brings you to Bell's Brewing on a Tuesday night, tell them about nErDcamp, and about edcamps generally. Tell them about your students and your classroom. Tell them about the book that you can't wait to share when school starts. Tell them about the teachers traveling from all over the country in JULY to sit in a room and talking about teaching.

The larger community needs to hear our stories.

See you next July!

(If you're reading this and you were in one of these sessions, or at nErDcamp generally, please leave a comment. I'd love to follow more people on Twitter who were in those rooms.)

1 comment:

  1. Love that you stopped at two breweries, but am not at all surprised. :)