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Professional development: The power of the ‘un’ conference

Imagine professional development that leaves you fulfilled, with meaningful resources and tools designed for your personal growth.

EdCamp Rowan
EdCamp Rowan

Hard to imagine, right? Not anymore. Welcome to the EdCamp movement.

You choose the topics. You lead the sessions. You have the autonomy, purpose, and drive to guide your own professional development.

I attended my first EdCamp last spring. It afforded me the opportunity to develop a sense of community, and to learn from and enjoy the fellowship of 100 other educators who desire to better their practice for the good of their students.

It was so exhilarating that I felt compelled to help organize an EdCamp in my region of the state. The idea for EdCamp Rowan also grew out of my summer internship with NovantHealth through the Kenan Fellows Program. After spending five weeks shadowing and learning from health professionals, I saw firsthand how empowered they are as professionals and I wanted that for teachers.

EdCamp Rowan

On March 7, more than 200 educators from across North Carolina gathered at Knox Middle School in the Rowan-Salisbury school district for EdCamp Rowan. EdCamp events empower us to embrace our expertise as educators and drive our own professional growth. We had such a great turn out, and so many educators left feeling inspired, empowered, and motivated.

EdCamp Rowan was made possible through the tremendous support of several teachers, curriculum coordinators, administers, and others in the Rowan-Salisbury school district including Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody who was an active participant throughout the event.

I was grateful for the support of my Kenan Fellow colleagues many of whom attended and participated in the event, including Kelly Hines of Discovery Education. Inspired by a talk given by Derek McCoy, the principal of Spring Lake Middle School outside of Fayetteville, Ms. Hines set up a photo booth asking attendees to share empowering words starting with the letter “C”.

EdCamp Rowan
EdCamp Rowan

To me, an EdCamp is all about “C”ommunity. It is about sharing and empowering one another in the common interest of our students.

Here is what else EdCamp means to us:

  1. Fellowship: Due to the natural, organic set up of an EdCamp, fellowship is a highlight as it comes to serve as a place where teachers encourage, brainstorm, and discuss personal issues related to our profession and classroom. In one sense it validates our efforts, and in another it challenges us to try on different perspectives.
  2. Voice: As a young educator, I have always been discouraged by the lack of voice in our profession. A group of empowered and pragmatic educators can be transformative, and this was our “think tank.” It served, and continues to serve, as a safe place to question, to voice concern, and to brainstorm solutions.
  3. Individualized Learning: EdCamps showed me that learning can be in the hands of the teacher, and it can be led by teachers. The notion of teachers learning from teachers is enough to empower any community.
  4. The Need: It reminds me I am not alone, and that there are remarkable educators striving to do courageous acts each day. Ultimately, it shows educators that we are leaders, and that our expertise has merit.

For more information about how to set up an EdCamp, visit the EdCamp Foundation website.

Kristen Swanson is the EdCamp Foundation Chair/Director. You can reach out to her on Twitter @kristenswanson.

Rachel Lawrence

Rachel Lawrence teaches eighth grade science at Southeast Middle School in Rowan County and is a 2014-15 Kenan Fellow. Lenovo and NovantHealth supported her fellowship.