#nErDcampLI or How I Caught the Edcamp Bug

This weekend I attended #nErDcampLI. It was my very first Edcamp experience.

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Now, we’re friends here, so I’ll be honest. I was scared.

Edcamps have always seemed to be what the cool kids are doing—and, let’s just say, I was always in corduroys when everyone else was wearing jeans with rolled up cuffs. I don’t know how Edcamps work, I don’t know what to do, I assume I will make a fool out of myself.

I always have admired the twitter buzz around #edcamps, all over the world, and always have pretended I knew exactly what was going on. It was my cocktail party fake out, “Oh yes, yes, those are neat, huh?”

But now it was really happening.

I went for the same reason so many did: JoEllen McCarthy.  Books and awesome learning, too. But first and foremost was JoEllen.

I feel lucky to call JoEllen a colleague at The Educator Collaborative and even more so I’m so lucky to call her a friend. Her inexhaustible joy for teaching and learning is so contagious that anything she says is “worth doing,” you do.

With JoEllen and a terrific team organizing the event, echoing the great work of edcamp and nErDcamp leaders like Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp, and the promise of terrific authors and educators all in one place, I decided to take the plunge.

Because walking into a cafeteria alone gives me cold sweats, I brought support: Sara Ahmed and Maggie Beattie Roberts, who came along enthusiastically for the adventure.

And Now I Get It

This is the part in the post where I go from being the unsure outsider to having fully and completely caught the Edcamp bug.

FullSizeRenderI get the “it” that everyone else before me has gotten.

Each session I attended was different in structure but similar in enthusiasm. I love how the “unconference” invitation allows for many different opportunities and styles. About 15 minutes into the first session, in an amazing session, watching the twitter stream spin by, I felt so at home in our profession, so lucky to be in a moment where educators were growing together in a powerful way.

I was able to attend several sessions (and wish those cloning machines I ordered would show up already…).

I sat in on Tony Sinanis, twitter superstar principal (or “Lead Learner” as he refers to himself) and a parent from his district, Lisa Davis, leading a conversation on reaching families. It was great to have both of their voices and be a part of a conversation that grew from their experiences.

I was inspired by how Jo Beth Roberts, a 8-12 librarian, led her session on LGBTQ texts by saying she saw a need to support students and didn’t know how to reach more of them… and then let the room talk through solutions and issues. That was powerful to see and a structure I want to think more about in my own work.

The “Rocks and Sucks” session invited us to pick a side on an issue and then debate across the room. It was exciting, if not scary, to be vulnerable with your opinion. Also fun to watch people switch sides at times.

The day ended with several #TitleTalk sessions on great new books, a whole camp celebration, and then an amazing book signing (here’s the listmy face is there, but I was actually walking around to the other tables instead…).

If it sounds like I’m gushing, it’s because I am.



It was a reminder for me of the educator spirit. Of how gifted educators do not need standards or evaluations to be great. They need each other. While the planning team thanked everyone for coming out on a Saturday, that was likely unnecessary. Saturdays out can fuel an overworked soul. But so can Saturdays in with people who think about what you want to think about, who love the things you love, who stand for children the way you stand for children.

Conferences, unconferences, twitter chats, hallway conversations… the more we connect together, the more we grow.

Next year’s #nErDcampLI cannot come fast enough!


Note to readers:

I’ve been shamefully away from my blog for too long. While I hope to remedy this, I also want to invite you to visit The Educator Collaborative’s blog: Community.TheEducatorCollaborative.com.  If you’d like, you can join TheEdCollab mailing list to receive the posts in your inbox, along with other updates from us.



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