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EdCamps and the Dialogue We Need


This afternoon I spent several very happy hours exploring yet another confluence of really interesting and powerful notions, the UnConference and the Google Hangout. The place: EdCamp HOME 2.0. 

I just want to put it out there that one of the more educational aspects of EdCamp Home for me was that it operated entirely on Pacific Standard Time; it’s not a terrible for thing us easterners, on whom the national sun has risen and set for so long we think it’s our due, to have to make the constant adjustments that must be a frustrating norm for everyone else in our nation (to say nothing of international participants from places like Cyprus and New Zealand). I appreciated the exercise.

I had my first EdCamp experience after NAISAC13,
and I’ve written about my compelling unconference experiences at TABS 2013 as well as this past summer at EdCamp Cape Cod. The unconference is a great model for giving teachers the chance to figure out what’s on their own minds—ideas and questions alike—and to tap a range of peers; I know one well attended session today involved ideas for transferring the EdCamp model to the classroom.

The session I proposed, “What do independent and traditional public schools have to say to one another?” was popular enough to run, although in the end it was populated only by a handful of independent school folks. However, even our small group could come to several conclusions:
  • Independent schools and their teachers aren’t always very good at talking to one another, tending to treat other institutions as alien terrain and their denizens as irrelevant or maybe kind of threatening. We agreed that public school folks seem, for whatever reasons, to have embraced the notion of “connected educator” far more wholeheartedly than the generality of independent school people (present company excepted, of course)
  • We in the independent school community can make unfortunate assumptions about public schools. It doesn’t help that the media tend to portray public schools, when they portray them at all, using what we might call a deficit model; at the same time, independent schools tend to be portrayed as looking like mini-Oxfords and corruptly teaching only the spoiled spawn of corrupt zillionaires (except when we’re not exploiting the children of the poor for their athletic talent).
  • We need to find ways to help ourselves in the independent sector talk to one another more often and more honestly, on the chance we might learn a thing or two.
  • And we really need to build some bridges between ourselves as educators and the vast pool of creativity and talent in our public schools.

As a group, it should be noted, I think I can safely say that we also weren’t really very comfortable with ideas (for-profit schools, for example) that risk diluting the quality of traditional public schools.

So at some point, soon, our little band of brothers and sisters is planning to establish a Twitter chat, hashtag TBA, to see if we can’t broaden this discussion at the grass roots level. Be on the alert, please.

And here’s an invitation to any and all of you who might be participating in an upcoming EdCamp (there are many of them; information here): Why not start making a habit of doing a little explicit outreach? Why not make it a goal for one independent school educator at every EdCamp to propose a session with more or less the title we used today: “What do independent and traditional public schools have to say to one another?” 

If we’re going to learn how to share, it will have to start at the teacher-to-teacher level, where we can start breaking down stereotypes and start asking the right questions, listening carefully to the answers—and offering our own answers when asked.

This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We might even start getting along a little better among ourselves.

1 Comment
  1. Thank you for extending the olive branch! I have taught in private and public schools. I’ve often thought that there is much to share. I’m currently the Curriculum Director at a public charter school in Little Rock, AR.