Sunday, August 21, 2016

Better Together - California Teachers' Summit 2016

In a room of 150 teachers, 3 of them were my former students. One I had met at last year's California Teachers' Summit, when she was a student teacher. This year I saw her again and learned that she had been newly hired at San Marcos High School to teach 11th-grade English. A second called out to me as I was walking between the tables in the CSUSM student center. "Hey Fairchild!" she greeted me as I walked by. I had seen her at a previous conference a couple of years ago; she reminded me that she works at Discovery Elementary in San Marcos, very near my house.

Since I had the microphone and was headed up to the stage, I decided to call them out. I proudly announced that two of my former students were in the crowd, and then a thought occurred to me: were there maybe others? I asked the crowd and was delighted when a hand went up! Another of my former students, now a first-grade teacher at San Elijo Elementary, also in San Marcos! Getting to see and talk to those three was the highlight of the day for me. I wish we had been able to get a picture with the four of us.

I was there to introduce and facilitate the EdCamp portion of the day. Along with 10 volunteers recruited to help, I explained to the group how an EdCamp works, how the sessions are scheduled, and what makes EdCamp sessions different from traditional conference sessions. At that point we had the participants write down a topic about which they wanted to learn. The volunteers collected the cards, grouped them into sessions, and created the session board. As always, the EdCamp-model crowd-sourced schedule came into focus. (Even as an EdCamp veteran, I am always impressed that this process works. It seems like it shouldn't, but it always does.) As I read across the session list, I thought to myself that if a group of education experts sat in a room and planned a schedule, they couldn't come up with a better one. Then I thought, that's exactly what just happened!

There were other components to the day: Keynote addresses live-streamed to all sites by actor Ernie Hudson and teacher Kelly Gallagher; local addresses by teachers and activists; photos, conversations, and reminders. But for me, the most valuable time was when teachers got to learn from each other. I hope my three former students, now teachers themselves, thought it was valuable as well!

To learn more about the 2016 California Teachers' Summit, go to

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