I was lucky enough to attend EdCamp Leadership in Philadelphia yesterday with my principal. I was nervous and excited to see some of my PLN in person. I know people have written about this before, but it truly is so exciting to meet people in person. I feel like a dorky, nerdy educational groupie! Seriously, I get just as excited to meet some of these people in the world of connected education as I do when I have met famous people in entertainment! As one of my PLN friends @BrianFahey put it, I am a “goner”, I have “crossed to the other side.”
EdCamp Leadership left me with many great take-aways about educational leadership. One thought that occurred over and over again was that educational leadership is about building relationships with people. I agree and use the same principle with my students. If I want my students to take academic risks, become self-directed learners and strive to find and stick with their passion, the first thing I do is get to know them to show I care about them.
One thought I put forth (and I am sure others did as well) yesterday was the importance of modeling being a learner first as a leader in your school. Teachers need to see their leaders taking risks and trying new things. Model by presenting information in a new way (via video like TouchCast, audio messages like Voxer, flipping faculty meetings) so that teachers can be inspired to try something new and see that it is important because their leader is doing it. And when you make a mistake or it doesn’t go exactly as planned, model humility and resilience by doing it again! I have a “Marvelous Mistakes” jar in my classroom. As members of our classroom community, when you share a mistake that you really learned from, you show you are humble enough to admit your mistake, learn from it and move on. We all benefit and when the jar is filled, we get a pizza party. I must admit, I contribute to that jar more than anyone and I am ok with that. I am an adult and have enough chutzpah and self-esteem to be ok with laughing at myself or to be embarrassed in front of people and move on. Leaders need to do this; it builds trust, it shows we are all human and it makes you more relate-able.
Another take-away from yesterday was that there was not one single attendee that was in their first five years of teaching. Many of us agreed that we need to do more as educators to help our new colleagues develop their PLNs and realize this wonderful world of connected education exists! The attrition rate for teachers would be way less if they experienced the support of a personal learning network. Our teacher preparation programs in colleges and universities need to educate new teachers about how to become a connected educator and why they should do it! As professors and adjunct faculty, they need to model this as well. I begin my new program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and will be sure to mention it more than once!
Lastly, yesterday’s experience left me feeling even more supported and inspired by the passion and incredible talent that filled those rooms. My own principal showed her incredible passion for education and courage to learn something new by attending EdCamp Leadership with one of her teachers! Others shared their wisdom and a piece of their heart by sharing personal experiences of being lead learners in their communities. The people that hosted EdCamp Leadership gave us all a gift yesterday. I thank them and hope they inspire others to host an EdCamp in their school or their community.
I realize that the most important thing I learned yesterday was to continue to believe in my passion for education and not be afraid to lead. What better example could I model for my students and my own children than believing in my passion, working at my passion and celebrating all that comes with it? Not much, I say.