I posted this message yesterday (January 8) in several of the National Association of Independent Schools online communities. Since these are for members only, I was encouraged to find a more public forum. So here is the message, as posted:
Over the past year or so I have had the pleasure of participating in several EdCamps. For those unfamiliar with the model, EdCamps are “unconferences” in which participants propose sessions based on their needs and interests–not as presentations, but as discussions of shared interests or compelling essential questions. (Learn more here.)
At a few of these events I have proposed and then participated in sessions titled more or less, “What Do Independent Schools and Traditional Public Schools Have to Say to One Another?” The resulting discussions have been fascinating–opportunities to air and dispel stereotypes and for teachers to talk about common concerns and common perspectives about our shared work and shared purpose: educating kids.
In my idealistic head I have a vision of at least one independent school participant at each EdCamp proposing such a session–building multiple tiny bridges across a gulf of mutual misunderstanding and lack of knowledge. We have much to learn from, and quite possibly something to teach, our counterparts in systems with issues that we might read about but don’t much experience: swaths of time devoted mandated testing, evaluation systems based on test results, and drastic underfunding. Amidst this all, public schools and their teachers are doing both innovative and yeoman work–work we seldom hear much about.
In turn, it’s okay for us to remind the world that all independent schools are not snakepits of corruption (a la Finding Forrester) or bastions of extreme wealth and privilege (as in the film School Ties); our students are neither all Holden Caulfields nor all pure-minded geniuses. Our schools have a panoramic range of missions, methods, and demographics–and a corresponding range of students.
So: If you know you have teachers attending EdCamps–and there are dozens of them, as you can see from this schedule–wouldn’t it be great if interested participants from our world would make a point of proposing sessions explicitly intended to build connections between our sector and our public school colleagues?
I’d be obliged, if you think this is a worthy idea, if you’d spread the word, please.
And Happy 2014! See you online, and maybe even at EdCamp–Peter Gow