This semester I was lucky enough to participate in Edcamp Victoria with a large number of the students in my cohort. Edcamp is a unique “unconference” with no planned schedule, that relies on the attendees to brainstorm topics upon arrival and vote on which ones they would like to explore the most. I wish I had personal photos to share, but the conference was so engaging I forgot to take pictures!
Shelley Moore was the guest speaker that kicked off the event and, WOW, is she ever a great storyteller! She told a story about her experience completing a two day bike ride for charity, unprepared, by using many of the supports provided by the charity organizing the ride that were meant for people who had injured themselves. The analogy perfectly related to supports for students in schools, how they shouldn’t just be available for the students who demonstrate need for them. That they should be available for everyone, no questions asked.
The seminars that I attended were: anxiety in the classroom, emotional literacy, and teaching grit. A common theme I noticed in the seminars that I attended was social emotional literacy, and how necessary it is for learning to occur, and to be able to persevere with more strenuous academic tasks.
In the first seminar, anxiety in the classroom, we discussed the rise in anxiety related to social media and comparison, as well as achievement. Whether we were discussing primary students or middle school, the conversation came back to getting kids back to building relationships and being encouraged to play and discover on their own in school. I learned that in middle school there is a lot of social isolation related to using technology as a coping mechanism, which I hadn’t realized because this type of technology wasn’t that advanced when I was in middle and high school. Some of the suggestions that teachers attending the seminar had for reducing anxiety were: using technology as a tool instead of coping mechanism, free play at the beginning of the day, building community and supporting the class as a whole. Teaching grit also came up, as the suggestion that students inquire into why they feel a certain way (anxious), and brainstorm coping skills with the teacher, or class if they’re comfortable, and use those coping skills to push past the anxious feelings.
The first seminar segued perfectly into the second emotional literacy, which emphasized expressing empathy – which promotes connection, instead of sympathy, which promotes a disconnect between people. Classroom community is a large part of the focus of my teaching philosophy at this point, and emotional literacy was identified in being an important component of building relationships in the classroom. One participant emphasized that the connection to a supportive adult is paramount in supporting a safe space to practice emotional literacy, where students can acknowledge their feelings and be a part of a conversation about their learning. It was suggested that emotional literacy can help reduce anxiety, and that Angela Duckworth’s book Teaching Grit helps teach students perseverance and resistance. I found it really interesting that all three of the seminars that I chose to attend had theoretical links between them.
The last seminar, dedicated to exploring Teaching Grit, I attended because I hoped it would help provide some information for my inquiry project for edci 360 “how do I build a classroom community that encourages risk taking in learning?”. The book, written by Angela Duckworth, goes through GRIT, which stands for Giving it your all, Redo if necessary, Ignore giving up, Take your time. No matter the age, learning to use grit to persevere with tough tasks is applicable in any situation in life. If we teach students the skills to think critically and persevere with challenging tasks, their skills will develop as a lifelong trait. If we model perseverance and grit for students, and provide the proper scaffolding, they should be able to succeed in situations that go further than their ability and help them develop grit. From our parting discussion I learned that having passion takes grit, and that not all students have passion. As teachers we have the power to help students find it, as an encouraging conversation could help a student discover something they never thought they could try.
Check out the videos posted from last year’s event, and look our for next year’s EdCamp! You won’t want to miss it.