EdcampNJ was today in New Brunswick, NJ. The energy was palpable, the people friendly, the event was organized brilliantly and the sessions I attended were engaging and informative. I met people in my PLN that had previously been a stationary picture in the top left corner of a tweet. I instantly felt like I was amongst peers. What people taught or where they administrated (ok I made that word up) made no difference. People were positive and happy. Ideas flew quickly and people weren’t afraid to take a contrary view and start a dialogue (@artlaflame). It was a great day for learning.
I left feeling a little down though. There were two reasons why. The first reason is that all these great people (excluding @CapeMay10) work at other schools. The positivity and vision that where we all worked together to create a great atmosphere was gone. The energy that made the event so worthwhile to go to had evaporated. The fact remains that when I go back to work (which will be December 1) the same school will be waiting for me that was there before EdcampNJ. My school is a great place to work but we are still in the process of buying into the vision that I believe is the future of schools. The idea that technology should be used, that sitting for longer than 15 minutes is unacceptable, that Twitter chats and Voxer are pd that are done willingly because this propels us toward best practices. The people today are already drinking the Koolaid (strawberry or cherry). They have already “seen the light”. They understand that collaboration and celebration create an atmosphere of positivity and fun.
The second reason I am feeling a little down is that I finally understand what it means to stand up for what you believe in. To go against the grain. Brian Costello (@btcostello) really hammered home the point when told a tale all too familiar to me about teachers who stop talking when you walk in the room. It is a lonely place sometimes to stand up and say to your coworkers I am not going along with you anymore. I am going to do what I think is best for my students. Teachers call you a brown noser because you work alongside administration instead of against them. Who think that because you work hard to cultivate relationships with everyone (parents, students, custodians, secretaries, and teachers) you have an ulterior motive. During the Schoolburger: The ingredients for better schools (#principalplnBIE Session Notes) one of the presenters stated, “you can be comfortable or you can be brave”. This is true and it is hard to constantly feel like an outcast.
I understand that we are at a crossroads in education. Every day more teachers are realizing being a connected educator is the only way to reinvigorate a career where we are feeling the squeeze from all sides. We will reach the tipping point where there will be more connected educators than isolationists.
Part of my problem is that so many of my PLN was there today. The conversations seemed easy and comfortable. The discussions were passionate and student based. This is what I crave. People who get me, my sense of humor, and understand under the goofiness I love kids. My PLN are educational leaders who put test scores secondary and a growth mindset first. I am invigorated from a day of learning and increased camaraderie and simultaneously saddened by the realization that we still have such a long way to go.