|Picture from my first EdCamp, I am all the way to the left|
The first ever Wisconsin EdCamp, #EdCampMKE, is this coming Saturday which made me think back to when I was getting ready to attend my first EdCamp in Chicago last year. To say I was nervous wouldn't quite cover it. It was more of a, "Why did I sign up for this and I can't believe people will see me, what if they hate me..." kind of pukey feeling nervousness. So I figured I am not alone, perhaps you are about to attend an EdCamp or even some other conference where you are meeting people from your PLN for the first time, perhaps you are an old pro at these events. Either way, here is what I wish I had known before I went.
- Initiate. My first EdCamp I sat at a table until my friend Katie found me. I was so nervous to say hi to anyone, I would have gladly sat at that table all day, just slipping through the cracks. But that is not what EdCamps are about; they are there for you to start a conversation, so do so right away. Sit down at a table that is having a lively discussion or say hi to someone sitting by themselves. We don't all look like our avatars so you never know who that person is and just how introvereted they may really be, me included.
- Engage and speak up. Once you have made initial contact; speak up. Add your voice to the conversation, again this is what make EdCamp so ingenious, it is all about communication and relationships.
- Propose. I am passionate about limiting grades, homework and rewards in the classroom and no one had offered a session on it. So up to the stage I went with my proposal. The worst thing that could happen? No one showing up, but instead it was a lively one hour discussion that brought many people to the table. So if you have something you would love to discuss, propose a session or find someone to propose it with you. This isn't about you lecturing a group of people; it is all about the discussion.
- Think Un-Tech. I love technology! But I don't want to discuss it all day, so please come to EdCamp with more than just tech-related ideas. And while there is room for everything at EdCamp, there needs to be a balance. We may all be geeking out over possible 1 to 1 initiatives but isn't education much more than just fancy tools?
- Move on. So you really want to discuss a particular topic but no one else does, or the session you thought was going to be incredibly exciting is just not? Move on. Do so quietly and respectfully, but do find something that interests you, otherwise why bother spending your Saturday afternoon there.
- Be Nice. EdCamp isn't about snark or putting others down, it is about community and great debate. So just like our moms taught us; play nice. And that also goes for the backchannel that usually pops up.
- Be Courageous. If you are passionate about something bring that to the session or better yet, lead your own. I am not an expert on anything but I do have opinions so why not add them to the conversations. Yes, people may disagree with you but you may learn something and so may they.
- Be Creative. At the last EdCamp Chicago my friends Katie and Jason led a session on the shy/introverted educator and their place in educator. What a fantastic creative topic that I was so sorry I missed. Think of what you really want to discuss and take it further. Why not start a discussion on how we can actually change education in our country starting in your classroom, or how to bring passion in to the classroom or some other topic that may seem a bit out of the ordinary. While you may not come up with solutions, the conversations will probably still be worth it.
- Be Quiet. Yes, I know I have said to speak up but also know when to listen. I was amazed at some of the things and ideas coming from other people, as long as I stopped talking long enough to hear them. So add you ideas and then listen to others. It is the give and take that make EdCamp extraordinary.
- Drink water. This very pregnant mama will be the one chugging water all day and you should do the same. EdCamp, or any other conference, can be exhausting and you want to stay alert for the whole day.