Camping with Socrates

“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.”   -Socrates

It sounds idealistic when I try to describe it to my wife, who isn’t an educator. There’s no preset agenda, I tell her, no real presentations, just discussions. If something isn’t working for someone they walk out of the room …and people are okay with that. We can discuss anything. We all want to be there (pretty early on a Saturday morning). They give us free coffee. There aren’t vendors. There aren’t paid speakers. At the end they give out prizes.

The “it” I’m describing is an “EdCamp,” mine yesterday EdCampSD.

For educators the EdCamp movement is all the best of this profession we’ve made our way of life. In a nutshell an EdCamp is a group of teachers and other sundry educators coming together to talk about what we do. Organized by intrepid volunteers, held at a venue that will grant us the space gratis (last year at an elementary school, this year at a district office, next year …my school? I’ll have to talk with my superintendent about that. I think he’d dig it), EdCamp provides a spot where a couple of hundred educators can gather together for meaningful, grass roots learning from each other.

What amazes and inspires me is the democratic nature of EdCamp. Sessions happen because people want to learn about what is being discussed in the room, not because they’re being compelled by anyone or anything. The best “leaders” of breakouts, in my opinion, are the ones who say the least; this should be a conversation, not a presentation. In our opening gathering participants are reminded that EdCamp has a “the rule of two feet” meaning that if a session isn’t working for someone, that person can quietly leave the room, no hard feelings, and find a session that offers her more. Pretty cool.

More eloquent people than me have praised the virtues of EdCamp, so I’ll end my short reflection here with some last very personal thoughts.

When teachers have opportunities to talk, really talk, with each other, great things can happen. This isn’t always the case in mandated “professional development,” but it does happen at EdCamp.

So does creativity, comradery, and genuine excitement. There’s something magical about a gathering of educators who make it a priority to take a Saturday out of their busy autumns to learn together. I see in the eyes of my fellow EdCampers a hunger to know more, to improve practice, and to learn from others.

This is growth mindset in action. This is a belief in the future and the difference we each can make.

I left EdCampSD inspired, renewed, and ready to change the world (or at least how I encourage teachers to learn from each other back at my school).

EdCamp is more than a little idealistic; it’s the spirit of Socrates.


3 thoughts on “Camping with Socrates

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