Why Should Parents Attend #EdCamp?

I wrote this post last year after attending #EdCamp35, hosted by the Langley School District. Shawn Davids graciously posted it on his blog, Leadership with Purpose (because I didn’t have one then). Now that registration has opened for the 2016 #EdCamp35, I am re-posting the article here in the hopes that I can encourage more parents to sign up to attend this wonderful day of learning. I can honestly say everyone at the event was welcoming and open to hearing from everyone who has an interest in education. 

To find out about #EdCamps in your area, please visit: http://edcamp.wikispaces.com/Complete+edcamp+calendar

Author: Karen Copeland
April 2014

A Parent’s Perspective on EdCamp35

About 8 months ago, I stumbled onto a #bcedchat on twitter. It was encouraging for me to see all these amazing educators taking time out on their Sunday evening to discuss topics that were meaningful to them. I took a deep breath and jumped in with my parent perspective. I cannot say enough about how welcomed my perspectives were, and slowly my own network began to grow.

When the announcement came about #EdCamp35, I was surprised to see the “unconference” was open not only to educators, but parents and students as well! This is so different from the “traditional” model of conferences, where educators are provided with the opportunity to come together to learn, and perhaps, if they are lucky, parents are provided with a separate evening to learn with each other. If there is anything that has become more concrete and solid for me over the past year of connecting with families, it is that we ALL need to start coming together to have conversations about things that matter to us. Coming together allows the opportunities for broader conversations amongst all stakeholders that develop empathy and understanding of what it is like for everyone. I often find there becomes more authenticity to the conversation as well. It is harder to promote that everything is going wonderfully if you have people in the room who know that is not entirely true.

Having considered all of the above, I swallowed my anxious thoughts, forced myself to step outside of my comfort zone and registered for #EdCamp35.

In the days leading up to the event, I begged my colleague to please ensure she could also attend (she did!). I was nervous. I pondered cancelling my registration. But my excitement about the opportunity to learn together with educators prevailed. I was also looking forward to meeting others I follow on twitter, and I didn’t want to bail on my colleague, either!

The first person I met that morning was Chris Wejr. Well, he’s pretty much a rock star on the twitterverse if you ask me. One of the first educators I followed, I have always been encouraged by his openness about developing relationships and partnerships with families. Chris urged me to put up a topic on the session board, so I did. Supporting students who have mental health challenges and communicating with their families. I was inspired by the number of “votes” this session topic received, although I wasn’t entirely surprised. This is a big issue in our families, our schools and our communities.

A group of over 20 of us assembled in our designated room for the session, where it then became apparent that the person who suggested the topic should be the facilitator. Gulp! A parent facilitating a conversation for and with educators?!? How often does that happen? And how would it be received?

I need not have worried. The stories that were shared when we went around the room for introductions spoke not only to why this session was needed, but also honoured those who are passionate about the topic because of their own experiences with mental health challenges in their classrooms, or their families. The distinction between parent, student and educator had left the room as we all came together sharing this common bond of lived experience.

What stood out for me was the willingness to share those “not so great” experiences with the group, and the openness of the group to receiving these. As usually happens, when one of those experiences is shared there is a collective gasp heard in the room. I really believe it is important for these negative events to be shared, as it highlights there is more work to be done, and creates a level of awareness of what it might be like for a family who has had that experience. It causes us to think about the times we may have judged or made an assumption in the past, when we should have been curious instead. It encourages us to be more curious in the future. So that perhaps the next time a parent avoids a meeting with the school, or appears “not to care”, we might question what it is that happened to that parent, versus what is wrong with the parent.

I walked away from this session feeling very encouraged and inspired by the sharing that took place. It was great to hear the perspectives of the educators who are working within the system, who believe in the goodness of ALL children. It was incredible to hear the perspective of the youth who attended the session, about what might work for them in a secondary school setting. Most importantly, I felt that everyone was valued in the conversation. We didn’t necessarily have titles other than people with a common interest. What a fabulous feeling! It is my hope that those who attended the session came away with the same thoughts.

I carried this feeling throughout the remainder of the day. I connected with some of my twitter peeps, and made a few new friends along the way. I followed the conversation on twitter of all the learning that was happening that day. Reading comments about how important it was to have students involved in the conversation was amazing!

I would like to extend my gratitude to the organizing committee for #EdCamp35, and the Langley School District for supporting this event. I applaud you for having the courage to think outside the box and include parents and students in the invitation to learning.

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