25 Lessons Learned From EDxED

On June 7th I had the opportunity to be part of an incredibly motivating professional development experience at the 2018 EDxED Conference (originally organized by educator Jennifer Gunn). It’s called that because it’s an opportunity for educators to share their ideas and practices with other educators (those who know the drill) and pick up tips in a low-pressure/high-information zone. As a presenter and attendee, I got to experience both sides of it. In many ways, it’s like an EdCamp, if EdCamp started and ended with calls to action by students and inspiring speakers like Chris Emdin. He really ‘took us to church’ and at times it seemed like a Penecostal revival rather than an educational conference. That’s not because of any overtly religious overtones (though there were some implied), but because the passion and focus made you feel compelled to ‘save’ struggling students and evangelize a message of hope in the darkness. It was invigorating and here are a few things I took away in case you couldn’t make it.e.

  1. The kind of teacher you become is directly related to the kind of teachers you choose to spend time with. Bad attitudes are addictive and corrosive. Too often we see arenas where teachers spend the whole of their free periods complaining about administration, students, the commute, or whatever else has bothered them that day. You can’t see the good in your students if there’s only negativity in the world around you.
  2. IMG_5667.JPGConferences that expect you to just sit and absorb info are already doing it wrong. We were up on our feet cheering and chanting. How can you be moved to change education if you can’t move out of your seat?
  3. Context is worth more than content. Quality instruction is more about your approach to students than about checking all the boxes of pedagogy.
  4. You can work on behalf of students in need and still completely miss the purpose. Richard H. Pratt and Philip Garret founded a conference in the late 1800s found the Mohonk Lake Conference for friends of the Indian that only served to perpetuate racist ideology about Native Americans based out of their own misunderstanding. Even now those who seek to care for the ‘poor babies’ of the inner city without understanding their world are doing themselves and those children a disservice and will likely end up part of a system that constructs and continues unequitable spaces.
  5. We are in the midst of a new civil rights era again and history will look at your choices and the changes you made. You need to be eager to speak strong truth to students and coworkers, and you need and be excited about a change.
  6. You shouldn’t be collaborating on standards and lessons, but collaborating on ending student oppression. Break down the barriers that get in the way of your students achieving and give them a platform for their voices.
  7. floating_schools1.jpgIf your students seem far from your reach in your room ‘build your boat’ and go to your students-reach your students wherever they are. The New York Times and other news organizations reported how –students in Bangladesh in monsoon season couldn’t make it to school. The teachers wouldn’t let that stop them. They built boats to reach them and taught them on the boats. Don’t let monsoons of bureaucracy or the status quo prevent you from reaching the needs of your students.
  8. (This felt like it was for me) Your whiteness is not an impediment to reaching minority students. Your realness is what counts. According to Chris, white allies are crucial in the struggle to overcome current challenges.
  9. hip_hop_education_1.gifThe word academic can mean 1. relating to education and scholarship or 2. not of practical relevance; of only theoretical interest. Too often we see the second definition which serves no purpose. You need to be open to being ratchet with your students. Ratchet-ness builds effectiveness and connection. Create a Hip-Hop Ed community in your school. Then you can merge that with the academic to become ratchetdemic. Being ratchetdemic is about building ratchet connections with students while maintaining high academic expectations.
  10. Many of the tools of the educational system are constructed to help you be lazy and pacify you. Break free. Do not hide yourself to make a broken system powerful.
  11. Sometimes the green lights you’re given only jam up traffic, so you’ve got to go on red. Your goal isn’t obedience to administrators but to your spirit that calls you to action. Some say stop because they don’t believe in your students like you do. Don’t end up in a structure that makes you the enemy of the purpose you entered the profession.
  12. Students aren’t struggling because of an inferiority on their part. They fail because we’re not speaking to their needs and sense of purpose. Bring physics to the playground and music to the classroom and speak to their experiences.
  13. global_awareness_in_the_clasroom_640c-982nx5xc4zk0c8g0wc8cwscwk-6uwurhykn3gokwo0808sc4k88-th.jpgStudents will recognize your fakeness immediately and their new goal will no longer be academic but to prove you false.
  14. Students will tell you when your tools aren’t working and if you’re not reaching them. The way they tell you may not be with words, but they will let you know. You just have to listen.
  15. Take the opportunity to learn from the challenges and successes of other educators that are striving. Their failures show that they’re willing to break new ground and you can learn how to build on that and make it even better.
  16. Technology should be fun and should be about making connections. Too often we worry about the what it’s for, the how to use it, and the expectations of those around us.
  17. Innovating with educational technology should always begin with a vision and not a device. It begins with what we want students to achieve. Everything else stems from there.  Gladly the NYCDOE is reexamining and looking to implement a new plan to correct the errors of the past.Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 10.24.21 AM.png
  18. The best way to bring about educational and technological change is not through a program of compliance. It’s about a campaign to influence others to develop the best practices possible.
  19. Every child deserves the opportunity to explore the world around them. If they can’t get there physically find any means to make your classroom a magical place to transport them.
  20. The real power of Xtra Reality tech is not just taking kids to new frontiers in the world around them but taking them inward to better understand themselves and others. It can lead to empathy and social-emotional learning by exploring the lives of others and how they respond to virtual circumstances.
  21. woman-shouting-nature-beautiful-young-to-autumn-outdoors-42999000.jpgSometimes striving for change alone in your school can feel like shouting into the wind. But if just one person hears and joins, you’ve already doubled your volume.
  22. Educators are the Wakandans of the world. They are gatekeepers to creating the leaders of the future and should be doing innovative work and striving to rile up students to change this world for the better.
  23. Being around other educators devoted their craft is one of the best ways you can improve your own.
  24. The education system isn’t broken. It’s working as it was originally intended. That is what we need to change.
  25. Wake up each morning knowing you can bring awesome change. Build the boat to your students, be free, be better, collaborate to innovate, and keep moving forward.

You check out more efforts on the ByEd blog. You can also find expertise on reaching underserved populations on the ratchademic podcast or at #HipHopEd.

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