I want to reflect on my experience at EdCamp at University Prep. The event offered a “unconference” format in which teachers taught teachers during sessions centered around specific topics. One of the sessions I attended was about the role mentors play in the school setting. The discussion focused on how teachers can be positive mentors for students. Some suggestions were:
- Matching students with mentors they can connect with.
- Identifying what students need and how they can best be supported.
- Helping kids take ownership so they care about their work.
- Helping establish trust with students by making a personal connection- checking in on them, asking “How are you doing?, “How can I help you?”, and letting them know you are glad they came to class.
- Should be a reciprocal relationship- empowering for both people
This discussion connected with the article, “Schools Explore Benefits of Peer Counseling,” by Evie Blad from Education Week. This article was about the positive effects of peer coaching for kids transitioning to high school. The program is called Peer Group Connection. High school students are leading groups of 9th graders to help “boost attendance, academic persistence, and graduate rates” (Blad, 2014, para. 4). This program recognizes the influence of social and emotional factors on students’ academic performance. The program not only supports 9th grade students as they prepare for high school but it provides older students with leadership skills. It gives an opportunity for all students to learn how to be mentors and a positive influence for others. Blad (2014) states, “Peer Group Connection is more successful than some other peer-mentoring efforts because its integrated into the school day, incorporates several meetings with students’ families to reinforce lessons and supports, and requires buy-in from principals and teachers before a school implements the program” (para. 10).
After reading the article, I think peer-mentoring offers many of the benefits of mentoring described at EdCamp. Students are more likely to relate to other students who are living the high school experience and understand the social and academic pressures they are dealing with. It is easier for students to establish a trusting and personal connection when they can relate to each other’s experiences. Since the mentor is taking on a leadership role, the mentor is learning along with the student making it a reciprocal relationship in which they can learn from each other.
I also had the opportunity to attend Twitter 101 at EdCamp. This session connected with ISTE Standard 5 which recommends joining a local or global learning community. Twitter is a resource that allows teachers to learn new ways to integrate technology and share best teaching practices with others. According to Koehler & Mishra (2009), “Teachers practice their craft in highly complex, dynamic classroom contexts that require them constantly to shift and evolve their understanding. Thus, effective teaching depends on flexible access to rich, well-organized and integrated knowledge from different domains” (p.61). Twitter is a great tool for professional development because it allows teachers to share information in 140 characters or less and search for information related to their content area. The session at EdCamp was a great starting off point because I was able to create an account and learn how to tweet and use Twitter’s features. I was able to connect with other educators and follow tweets about what other educators were learning right at EdCamp!
Finally, I attended the teacher leadership session and got to hear about the vision of education from two Washington Teacher of the Year winners! It was great to hear about the impact positive leaders can bring in shaping a school community. There was an emphasis on the importance of job-embedded learning. Job-embedded learning focuses on professional learning that is ongoing and a part of daily instruction. Zepeda (2008) states, “Job-embedded learning is about learning from everyday practice as people learn by doing, reflecting on the experience, and making modifications based on the experience, the talk and the action of doing” (p. 76). The current Washington Teacher of the Year, Katie Brown, gave examples of what job-embedded learning looks like at her school. Staff meetings always begin with modeling of an effective teaching strategy. Teachers are asked to not only share strategies but model the strategies for other teachers. There are also opportunities for teachers to observe other teachers to get new teaching ideas and learn from one another!
I’m glad I was able to attend EdCamp! It was a great learning experience and a cool way to connect and learn from other educators!
Blad, E. (2014). Schools Explore Benefits of Peer Counseling. Education Week, 33(19), 1,15. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/04/23/29peerconnection.h33.html
Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.
Zepeda, S. (2012). Professional development: What works (2nd ed.). Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education