This past weekend I was privileged to attend EduCon in Philadelphia with a few fellow passionate Ontario educators. The conference is centered on the idea of having conversations rather than presentations and we took this to heart. We spent hours listening, talking, and reflecting with such depth that I’m still in a mental fog today.

Through these conversations, a few prominent themes emerged:

  1. Perspective is everything:
    • I really appreciated the window into the US education system as although I constantly push for change here in Ontario, we are so blessed to have our current system. There were many conversations that discussed the issue of race and although racism is still an issue here, we do not experience the same degree as in the States.
  2. Community is the foundation:
    • We spent much of our time observing and talking to the students of The Science Leadership Academy, but what was truly fascinating was how expressed their thinking about the school. One student described that being a SLA student means that he thinks of the learning of his peers first and his own second. They want everyone to be successful and are there to support each other through the learning journey. It’s something I feel that I’m able to cultivate in my classroom, but it’s so very impressive on a school scale. We observed and commented on how happy and relaxed the atmosphere was in the school rather than the stressed out and tense environment that school seems to so often be for our students. Even the teachers looked calm and relaxed which resonated with us.
  3. Look for, listen to, and tell stories:
    • I loved this message. It came up a variety of time through presentations, conversations with students, but the deepest influence on me came from conversations on the journey home. Stories have immense power and if we don’t continue to tell or listen to the ones we see or hear everyday, we are losing out on what makes us human.
  4. Develop and continue to demonstrate an “ethic of care”
    • Zac Chase (one of the founding teachers at the SLA) discussed this in relation to the idea of data. We are living in a data driven world and at the SLA, data is important, but they are not focused on achievement data. He described that data needs to be knowing our students. Data such as the number of students who don’t have food to eat for breakfast or that a student doesn’t have a warm coat or which students are going through any number of difficult situations in their lives. It’s knowing your students, but more importantly, them knowing that you care about them as human beings.
  5. Language matters
    • Chris Lehmann discussed how we often “operate at a deficit” when we think about school and learning. It is human nature to look for all the negatives in the situation rather than flipping it to see all the awesomeness that is life. To combat this he talked about how we need to talk to each other in meaningful ways which allows us to take time to be human and vulnerable and at the end of the day, hopeful. It was a message that truly resonated with me.

So thank you students and staff at SLA. I feel blessed and honoured to have learned from you.

Thank you also to my travel companions as I have not thought so deeply as I did this weekend.

My brain and heart are full.

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