EdCampOttawa Conversations

I signed up for EdCampOttawa and spent Saturday with teachers, a group of pedagogical nerds like some Comicon convention, but better termed a “camp” for teachers whose restless brains and bottomless hearts push for educational revolution.

I knew what I wanted to talk about. I knew I would have the support of my principal, also in attendance, and my podcast partner. So, when the post-it notes were passed for topic selection, we knew that we wanted to talk about equity in education, about racism, and all the subtle and not so subtle ways that inequality is systemic. We wanted to talk it out and find the path forward.

Now, we are a group of well educated professionals, many with privilege and a degree of power, but two participants shared experiences which are clearly fresh flesh wounds. Their courage to speak about their experiences demonstrated both the overt and the subtle inquities of our educational institutions.

I can’t remember how the conversation begun after the introductions, but the thoughts and ideas flowed fast, back and forth across our elliptical and awkward attempt at a circle in this foreign space at the University of Ottawa. This group of teachers was somewhat diverse though largely White and predominantly female in keeping with education in general. The voices in conversation were often strained songs questioning and seeking, but aware that this is largely untraversed and rocky terrain; the risk of making the “wrong” step is high and our emotions were teetering near the edge.

And then a woman whom I’ve known and respected for her enthusiasm and dedication to her Elementary school students asked how to deliver lessons in identity while she, a hijab wearing elementary teacher, feared being accused by others of “having an agenda”. She paused while asking and admitted to getting emotional even in this reminiscence, this memory of experienced erasure.

And then a young male teacher whom I’ve encountered in Twitter chats and whose reputation is glowing, spoke about getting a job and being told on the first day that he must not share his sexual orientation, that he must hide this part of himself if he wants to stay employed in the profession. Our collective hearts sank and some apologized not knowing how to respond to such honest open wounds.

These conferences and camps are often places where teachers want to walk away with stuff, with lessons, with apps and handouts and solutions to make teaching easier, and happier, and ditch-this, ditch-that. I was that teacher who wanted something to solve for “x”.

But this weekend unveiled some truths to me; there is no formula, no handout, no app, no standardized test for equity in education. It is going to require the effort of mountaineers who know this rocky terrain begins within, and who are willing to summit by putting one’s self at the bottom of the mountain in order to lift others up to that hopeful place of equity. I can’t solve for “x”, but I can use my position of privilege; it feels like the least that I can do.

And, I know there are many more steps on my journey and I will continue to make mistakes. I cringe at my former teaching self and all that I have done to uphold inequity. I have been an ignorant bystander; now, I will educate myself to become an ally. I didn’t walk away from EdCampOttawa this weekend with stuff to teach as much as the echoes of lived experiences which have fueled my learning and I’ll never again underestimate the power of conversations.




8 thoughts on “EdCampOttawa Conversations

  1. I love the way you describe the ed camp! It is like comic- con for education nerds. Ha ha I too have been reflecting on the words of the young teacher who talked about not feeling welcome in his school. I did not think that sort of thing was still happening in public schools in 2020. Shows how naïve I really am. I hope he is able to find the support and welcome that he needs in his new school. I have thought too about how important it is for old lady teachers like me to speak up for those younger teachers. I never would have been able to advocate for myself in the first five years of my career but I certainly can help to advocate for people in their first five years.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is so true. Amanda and I talked about it on our podcast tonight. We wished we’ve been able to hear more from both of them and we realize we should’ve given them more space, more time to speak.


  2. This is the beauty of the slice. We are all feeling our way through this, trying , sharing, reflecting. Our paths are journeys, journeys in listening and learning. Today, I was struck by Dr. Seuss and how now I just can’t consciously be part of that anymore. Sometimes as allies, we have to move the conversation forward because we have done the wrongs and the learning. Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so excited to see more conversations like this in the Slicing community this year! I have so many things I want to say about antiracist and equity work in schools too. I need to start writing those posts, because t’s the main thing I think about, the focus of almost all my reading and professional development. You are right: there is no formula. But I do think we have maps that we can follow–so many who are doing such good work that can guide our work too. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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