Everything we do in life starts with a dream. Our tech coach, Eladio, had been dreaming of hosting an Edcamp in the Dominican Republic for two years when he spoke to me about it. Both of us are passionate about improving education, and we agree that when educators break barriers and share ideas, our students all benefit. Edcamp is the ultimate sharing experience and, for months, we talked about hosting one… eventually. But, when you want to do something, you can’t have some vague idea of the future in mind. You have to set a date and commit.
So about two months ago, we did just that. Our team met and decided on May 7th. Which, at the beginning of March, seemed comfortably far away. We thought we had a lot of time, and then, suddenly, we didn’t.
We faced a few problems up front: Most teachers in the DR had never heard of Edcamp before and were less than enthusiastic about giving up a Saturday for more professional development (free or not). Also, none of us had actually taken part in an Edcamp and, though we loved the idea of it, we’d never experienced it. As any salesperson will tell you, it’s hard to sell something you’ve never used.
But serendipity happens. In April, we were at the ASCD2016 conference in Atlanta where — lo and behold — two of the original founders of Edcamp, Dan Callahan and Mike Ritzius, were offering a session on Edcamp-style professional development. I took part in a simulation, which, if you’ve ever been to an Edcamp, you know was phenomenal. What an experience!
Once we were home, we decided to hold a mini Edcamp during our Friday PD, which I wrote about here. It was amazing, and suddenly, our teachers were on board. They began registering for the EdcampRD and sharing the word with other teachers they knew.
There’s not much preparation necessary for an Edcamp. You send out invitations, prepare a schedule board, rent tables, order breakfast, coffee, and lunch, and off you go. That in itself is a little nerve-wracking. We were hosting 150 teachers, most of whom had never been to our school, and we had no control. All we could do was set it up and then trust the process.
May 7th arrived in a week of torrential rains – another thing we couldn’t control. A lot of our campus is open to the elements, and people would be running through the rain to get to classrooms. So, we crossed our fingers that people would brave the weather to show up, and we opened the doors for registration. Teachers arrived to share breakfast while one of the original founders of Edcamp, Hadley Ferguson, Skyped in and welcomed them.
We then organized the ideas and used them to build our schedule board:
Finally, we broke off into our sessions.
We had three sessions in the morning and two after lunch. The rooms hummed with conversation and enthusiasm. Everyone was engaged in sharing ideas, concerns, frustrations, goals, and successes.
The feedback we got was both extremely positive and helpful. For the next EdcampRD, we’ll be adding more rooms (there’s so much to talk about!) and organizing a space to share examples of teaching strategies. We also plan to hold a series of workshops for those who need a break from conversations. But most of it will remain the same – it’ll continue to be a space where passionate educators come together to share and learn.
EdcampRD was phenomenal, precisely because of the teachers and leaders who attended. They were willing to give up their Saturday to share with others and they were all highly motivated educators and risk takers. With a group like that, what could go wrong?
Relax. Trust the process.