Everybody is new at some point in their lives. This year, I am definitely no exception to this rule.
Not only am I working at a NEW school in an entirely NEW position while living in a NEW neighborhood, but I am now assuming a NEW leadership role of helping organize Edcamp Atlanta!
Organizing this event, yet having never attended an Edcamp before, puts me in a unique position. I find myself examining past session boards to quell my excitement and curiosity over what this year’s Edcamp Atlanta experience will be like. I can’t wait to see what innovative topics teachers will bring to the table and what new ideas and I can adopt and implement at my own school. Being new, however, is a little more complicated than just excitement alone.
Part of being new is identifying the parts of a new experience that feel like ‘home’. In education, we consider a student’s sense of ‘home’ by activating their prior knowledge. This is pivotal in planning lessons and units. Not activating prior knowledge sufficiently could result in the curse of a mal-prepared teacher: confused stares and disengaged students. [Cue ominous piano tune here].
Glimpsing at past session boards, I find my own prior knowledge awakening. Some topics greet me like a friendly neighbor to my fence - flipped classrooms, we meet again! Hosting my own Twitter chat conjures memories of meetings past where educational professionals across the nation joined to watch hashtags cascade down their computer screens like snowflakes softly falling to earth on a winter day. The point of activating prior knowledge is to build upon pre-existing concepts and get students excited to learn. So yes, past session boards, you are doing a great job of doing just that! I am excited and feel quite at home discussing topics I am familiar with and have experience implementing.
Some session board topics don’t greet me as neighbors I know and love - they greet me as the new family moving in on my street, or maybe even celebrities I can’t wait to spot in real life! Tech coaching WITH teacher buy-in, where have you been all my life? Culture of sustainability, dare I spot and fully integrate you into our fantastic learning culture as well? I cannot wait to hear about impromptu topics raised by my fellow educators, topics I have heard a bit about and can’t wait to implement myself.
Part of being an educator is coming to terms with the fact that growth sometimes comes from confronting that which we are not comfortable with at all. Perhaps that is where the most growth occurs. I’d be dishonest if I didn’t mention the past session board topics I’ve read that I have never even heard of. Topics so foreign could be a bit intimidating. If I’m such a great educator, why have I not encountered them before? Brand new topics could run the risk of making me feel like an ill-prepared or insufficient educator.
The truth is that good teachers are always learning, and we cherish the environments that allow us to learn without restraint or shame. This conference, at the core of its being, is created for teachers to learn from each other and refine their craft in a fun, personalized and deeply invigorating way. We are all new sometimes. Edcamp seeks to share tried and true teaching techniques, memorialize new methods and pedagogies, and embrace entirely new ideas with our dearest (and most daring) colleagues by our side.
I am so excited. Newness can be scary sometimes, but in the right environment, it can be absolutely invigorating.
Tara Vito, Lead ML/UL Librarian, Edcamp Atlanta Organizer
EdCampATL on Flickr