Last Saturday, I attended my second EdCamp here in Leon county. I was looking forward to it because last year's event was so amazing. While I had a good time, I have to admit that my experience this year wasn't as great as last year's. I've been reflecting this week on what was so different. Were my expectations too high? Maybe I was overly excited last year because it was my first EdCamp event. I don't know...
In this post, I'm going to reflect on both EdCamp experiences and compare/contrast EdCamp 2013 and EdCamp 2014.
First of all, EdCamp 2014 didn't seem as organized or as promoted as EdCamp 2013. Last year, EdCamp Leon was promoted heavily on Twitter and there was no confusion about the registration/start time. When I first found out about this year's event (on a flyer at a workshop), the start time was posted as 10 a.m. When I registered, the start time on my ticket was 9:30 a.m. Eventually, I saw on Twitter that the start time was 9 a.m. I was so confused! I had invited several people and was unsure what time to tell them. I stuck to the 9:30 a.m. time but wish I had arrived earlier so that I could have met and networked with other teachers.
This was another difference. Last year, I arrived at 8 a.m. and sessions began at 10 a.m. This gave me plenty of time to meet new people and talk about what's working in our classrooms. I even shared how I used technology in my classroom with a new teacher-friend and got her started on Twitter. I had so much fun connecting with other teachers and getting to know them before the sessions began. This year, unfortunately, I arrived only 30 minutes before sessions started. I felt obligated to sit next to the coworkers I had invited, so I didn't really get to chat with new people.
If I were in charge of EdCamp, this is what I would do to encourage networking: I would assign each table a number. When people arrived and registered, I'd give them a sticker (indicating a number) to wear on their shirt. I would make sure that those who arrived in a group (or those who are from the same school) would get different numbers. The people would sit at the table that matched their "assigned" number and get to know the teachers around that table. Maybe after a certain time period we could switch seats, but I would encourage attendees to get out of their comfort zones and have conversations with new people. That's what EdCamp is all about--getting to know new people and learning from them. I didn't feel that that was encouraged as much this year.
Not only was there not enough time to mingle before our sessions, but we were given a presentation during lunch (via webcast) so very few people were conversing; they were all watching the screen! I wanted to debrief with my co-workers about the morning sessions they had attended and share ideas, but I couldn't speak across the table because of the loud webcast going on. To me, the webcast wasn't that helpful, so I began talking to a guy next to me who is starting a school next year. He shared ideas with me, and our conversation was enjoyable and exciting. It was great to finally connect with someone. I felt that this year's EdCamp didn't allow time in our schedule for conversations to flow, connections to build, and sharing to occur among attendees. I felt stifled this year; last year I felt free.
Another thing I missed from last year was a whole-group segment called "Digital Tool Shout-Out." During this 15 minute session, teachers had a chance to stand up and share, in 20 seconds or so, their favorite website/app/digital tool that they use in their classroom. I thought that this was helpful, and it also allowed teachers who didn't feel comfortable enough to lead a session to still share what's working in their classrooms.
Throughout the day, just like last year, I attended four sessions. These included:
1. Web 2.0 Resources
2. That's What He/She Said (a session about backchannel communications)
3. Things That Suck
4. 20% Project
The sessions that I went to were great, and I learned something new in each one. Many of the online resources I learned about would work best in a BYOD environment or 1:1 classroom. At this time, my school doesn't have this, so the sites/apps suggested were more "cool" than practical for me.
My favorite session was "Things That Suck," which was the most participant-driven one. I loved it! The leader of the session began by "drawing" an imaginary line down the middle of the room. He said he was going to give us a topic and we had to move to either side of the line--one side of the room stood for "I think this topic is great and I agree with it" and the other side stood for "I think this sucks and is bad for education/learning." Topics included homework, grades, grouping of students, standardized testing, teacher evaluations, and teacher tenure. The tough thing about this session was that there was no middle ground. We had to take a stand on each issue and be able to defend our position. After everyone "voted" we all discussed why we stood where we did. We had some great conversations! This session was such a hit--people were still talking when time was up. One of the EdCamp coordinators had to come in the room and say, "Okay, everyone, we have to wrap this up now because the next session is about to start." No one was ready to leave! I think this would be interesting to do at a faculty meeting so we could all learn about each other's teaching philosophies.
Overall, EdCamp Leon 2014 had some great sessions, and I learned some new things. The down side was that there was very little time to connect with other teachers, and sharing ideas/learning from others is what I enjoy most. I would definitely attend another EdCamp. I've learned that every event is unique and I shouldn't expect the exact same thing each time.
Friday, May 30, 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
This year, I wanted to do something special for my students' end of the year gift. I, of course, searched Pinterest for ideas and found inspiration for not only my students' gifts but also my classroom volunteers' gifts. For my students, I decided to surprise them with an encouraging, personalized word cloud in a frame:
In order to put these together, about a month before school ended, I told the class that we were going to complete an encouragement activity. I asked them to take out a sheet of paper, write their name at the top, and then number from 1-15 (because I had 15 students). Each student is assigned a number in my class, so I asked them to mark through their own number in the list. The children had to pass the papers around the classroom (of course, I did this very orderly), think of a positive characteristic for the person whose name was listed at the top, and then write this encouraging attribute next to their own assigned number. Since I know all my students' numbers, I could easily tell who had not yet signed someone's paper. Also, the students were not allowed to repeat words, so occasionally, I'd have to say, for example, "Oh! Numbers 9 and 14, you both said this person was 'Awesome' so you need to change this. We can't have repeats." I encouraged them to stay away from "blah" words like nice, sweet, great, awesome, etc. The kids took this task very seriously and many of them pulled out a thesaurus!
I used Tagxedo.com to create the word clouds. I printed them out and cut them to fit an 8x10 frame.
|Last Day of School|
|First Day of School|
Oh, yes! I also added a little something extra to the bags of the students who were stuck on Space Shot with me during our Space Camp Trip:
On another note, let me share my volunteer appreciation gifts with you. This year, I had three main moms help out in my classroom. I gave these ladies homemade pomegranate hand scrub...and I may have made a batch for myself too! I attached a note that said something like, "Thanks for lending a helping hand this year. Now, please enjoy this homemade pomegranate hand scrub." I also personalized Thank-You cards for them. I appreciated their help so much this year!
HERE. To see my End of the School Year board, click HERE.
Monday, May 12, 2014
For several years, my students have done the same Mother's Day project--creating a Time magazine, showcasing the "Mother of the Year." It's a great writing project, but it's a little time-consuming, so I decided to switch things up a bit this year. I searched Pinterest and came across a grand idea that I tweaked for my students. I followed the same instructions and used the same printables found HERE, but I downloaded the app "Make it Big" instead because it was free. My students made picture magnets for their moms, and I think they turned out well. I made the prints black and white because I liked the "classic" look.
Saturday, March 29, 2014
HERE. It turned out to be great! All the girls stayed in one large dorm room, and all the boys stayed in one large room. We each had our own bathroom. Therefore, we didn't have to walk down the hall to go to the restroom, nor did we have to share with another school group! Yay! The girls' room was huge (we had 54 bunks)! For those who are interested, here's what our accommodations were like:
Anyway, after we arrived and settled into our Habitat, we had orientation and soon jumped into activities. Our school participated in the same program as last year, Pathfinder, and we were even split up into three groups with the same names as last year--Armstrong, Aldrin, and Bean. I was on Team Armstrong again and our camp counselor was named "Karl with a K." No, we didn't just call him Karl; we had to say, "Karl with a K." He was awesome! Before our trip, we prayed specifically for a counselor/crew trainer who was loud, energetic, and enjoyed being with us. Karl with a K was all that and more! He taught us a chant that we shouted out randomly at Space Camp. When he yelled "Armstrong!" We would yell back, "Stays strong....ALL...DAY...LONG!"
On Day 1, Team Armstrong visited the Rocket Park and learned about early rocket history, trained for our space mission, rode G-Force, visited the Davidson Museum (and learned about the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs), rode the MAT (Multi-Axis Trainer) simulator, and assembled rockets.
|Karl with a K, telling a story about Alan Shepard's first flight.|
|My team's mission patch, with the explanation below.|
|Team Aldrin's mission patch|
|Team Bean's mission patch|
We had the opportunity to ride Space Shot a second time and I jumped on it! I love that ride! You are shot 140 feet in the air and experience a moment of free fall. This ride simulates what a launch is like, as well as a brief period of microgravity. Here's what the ride is like:
I love roller coasters and rides like this (that drop you suddenly), and I'm not afraid of heights. So, I took a new group of kids and we rode a second time. I sat on the end, like in the video, with a little boy next to me, and a girl on the end. In all, I had 6 students on the ride, as well as a mom chaperone. We got buckled in, and with little notice, we shot up! I knew, after the first drop, that something wasn't right. The ride didn't feel like it normally does--and I've ridden Space Shot enough times to know what it's like! Pretty soon, we slowly lifted to the very top of the ride and stopped. We were suspended 140 feet in the air. The children started to get a little nervous after a minute or two, and began to question me about why we'd stopped. I said, "I'm not sure, but look at this wonderful view! This is a view of Space Camp we don't normally get to see!?! Check out the hills in the background, and..." The little girl interrupted me and said, "Mrs. Bowman, I know you're trying to distract us, but IT'S NOT WORKING!" She went on, "Ugh! I knew I should have gone to the bathroom instead of getting on this ride!" We chuckled, but then I started to hear the heartbreaking sounds of my students on the other side of the ride crying and wailing. I couldn't call out to them, so I yelled to the little girl on the end, "Try to shout to those girls and tell them it's okay! We are going to get down soon!" The little girl tried, but the wind was blowing, air was releasing from the valves behind our heads, and it was difficult to communicate over all the noise. I could clearly hear the hysteria, however, and it was awful. I immediately started praying out loud. The longer we were up there, the more nervous the little girl on the end seemed to get. To be honest, I was getting nervous as well.
|My nervous face!|
After a while, our feet and legs began tingling and growing numb. We had been up there for a while and we had no idea what was going on. There was no way for anyone on the ground to give us info or talk to us. We just had to wait. My kids and I kept praying and praying out loud. I said, "Guys, I know we are surprised by this and it's unexpected, but the Lord knew we would be stuck up here in this moment. This is not a surprise to Him. There is some reason we are up here. This may be the opportunity you need for your faith to grow...for you to put your trust in Him...for you to learn dependence on Him...I don't know...but I'm pretty sure we will never be the same!"
We continued to pray and talk and soon the wind started to blow as hard as ever. We were so cold and the gusts were rocking our seats. That was nerve-wracking! I had my camera with me and was able to record this brief prayer (you can hear how badly the wind was blowing...and, yes, my teeth were chattering):
We had been dangling in the air for around 30 minutes or so. You can see the time-lapse with these pictures (notice the position of the sun/shadows):
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we felt like we were being slowly lowered. We looked up...and, YES...we were moving! Hallelujah! Once we got to the bottom, we prayed again! I'll tell you, I don't know if I've ever prayed so hard in my life! We were handed bottles of water and shook hands with several Space Camp officials. They apologized profusely and let us know that this has never happened before. One man told us, "In my 25 years here, this has never happened."
Apparently, the ride operates on an air compression system. When it launches, it is supposed to reach 26 PSI; instead, for whatever reason (possibly high winds impacted the machine?), it reached 30 PSI and immediately went into maintenance mode. We couldn't be lowered until the air pressure bled off. Unfortunately, this took a while. Thankfully, we were lowered slowly. I had been wondering how we would drop...
|Us at the top (picture taken from a distance)|
|So happy to have our feet on the ground!|
What I love about this experience is that my students saw God. After we landed safely on the ground, a little girl came up to me and said, "Mrs. Bowman, I've never felt closer to God than right now!" We talked about the whole situation! They were able to see God answer prayers, and for some of them, their walk with the Lord will never be the same again.
For me, that experience taught me several things. I realized that I really like control. If you know me as a teacher, you know that I expect my classroom to run like a well-oiled machine. I like structure, order, and for things to be done a certain way. When I was at the top of Space Shot, I had absolutely no control. Things were not working out the way I thought they should. How did I handle that? How do I normally respond when something unexpected happens? I handled the situation by turning immediately to prayer. Honestly, if the children hadn't been there, I would have cried and thrown a fit and been a hysterical mess! I was reminded by this situation that I'm really not in control of anything. None of us are. We are at the mercy and under the authority of a sovereign God. Another thing that stuck out to me was something I already mentioned--I immediately turned to prayer. I prayed more passionately and fervently at the top of Space Shot than I have in a while. But I don't want to do that only when I'm in a bad spot or when something terrible happens! I want to "pray without ceasing" and talk that passionately with God on a daily basis. So many people (myself included) get into the habit of crying out to God only when things go wrong. I want to wake up daily and submit everything to Jesus Christ...turn to Him in every situation, good or bad. I do try to live my life for Christ every day, but this situation was a great reminder to me of how important it is.
One last "God-moment"...after one of my many prayers at the top of Space Shot, the little girl on the end turned to me and asked, "Mrs. Bowman, did you feel that?!"
"What??" I said.
"We just prayed that the wind would stop...and it's stopped!!" she gasped.
Even though this experience wasn't pleasant, I'm thankful for it. I'm extremely glad that I was on the ride with the kids instead of being on the ground, looking up helplessly. Granted, I was helpless ON the ride, but it made my students feel better that I was experiencing this with them.
Side note: Earlier today, I actually called that part-time pastor/U.S. Space & Rocket Center official who gave me his card, and we had an incredible phone conversation. We talked for almost half an hour and he shared with me what his sermon was going to be about, among other things. Explaining our conversation would be another blog post, so all I'll say about it is this--I'm in awe of how God moved on this trip!
Once the excitement was over and our nerves had settled, my group ended Day 2 with dinner, a Museum Scavenger Hunt, and a simulator.
After our devotion time, we played Space Bowl--and Team Aldrin won!
Before we left, my group enjoyed Space Dots ice cream: