The Community of School: Some #Educon Takeaways

This weekend I attended #Educon conference in Philly. It was held in the Science & Leadership Academy, and the opening keynote panel for Friday evening was held at the Franklin Institute. It’s my first time in Philadelphia, so I was really looking forward to attending, and presenting. My friends, Xian and Melinda, and I held a session on student voice. And we invited two students, Alicia and Ameena, to join our panel. *Sessions at #educon are called “conversations”*.

I love everything about the conference but there were a couple of moments that stood out for me, and reflecting back, I am seeing that there is common thread in these moments that can be tied together.

School becomes a community when there are a set of values that all stakeholders respect and uphold. Here are some of the core elements that I thought were highlighted and emphasized during the many conversations I heard at #educon:

Respect each other & the learning space Respect was something that was highlighted often in many conversations. It was first discussed in our session on student voice. Ameena shared a powerful thought:

Students need to feel welcome and respected in the classroom. This may seem like an obvious sentiment. However, students of colour, and this was voiced a lot in the conference by teachers and students, often don’t get the same respect walking into the classroom. They often have to earn the respect of their teachers. This needs to change.

The idea of respect in the classroom was highlighted on a larger scale by Jose Vilson:

Mr. Vilson is discussing here the idea that teachers also need to feel respected by the administrators, principles when they enter their classrooms. Walking into someone’s class, withhold judgments, and instead, respect the fact that they’re there teaching and learning with the students. This shift of the mindset does not come easy, and therefore we have to be cognizant of this thinking, identify it, and change it. It relates to one of my favourite quotes:

The-biggest-communication-problem-is-we-do-not-listen-to-understand.-We-listen-to-reply.

Many of us have the tendency to not really hear what the person is saying, because we’re so focused on crafting our own replies. It’s vital that we listen to truly understand the person, and not focus on our own preconceived thoughts, ideas and biases. This will help to develop empathy when replying and dealing with the communication at hand.

The importance of Voice The previous point links really well with the importance of voice. There were tons of conversations that centred around the importance of voice in education, and if they didn’t centre around voice, voice was touched upon and discussed regardless.

Some of the conversations were very real. I enjoyed really enjoyed the conversation with Jose Vilson and Audrey Watters, in case you weren’t at Educon, you can view it here. The idea of voice can mean so many things. We talk about student voice, we talk about teacher and parent voice, but it’s also necessary for us to recognize power structures and hierarchy in those voices, who gets heard the most?

Who are the privileged voices in education? How can those voices use their privilege to create and impact positive change to allow historically oppressed voices to be heard and amplified?

Don’t forget the Parents Of course the parents are very important stakeholders in education. We all know that. However, reflecting your own ideas about “how” the parents should be engaging in their child’s learning comes from a place of privilege. The idea of “showing up” was brought up at The Privileged Voices session with Vilson and Watters.

Do not expect parents to behave and be engaged in their child’s education in the same way that you would. That comes from a place of privilege, because it means that you’re also expecting those same parents to have your upbringing, your culture, your socio-economic status, your privilege. And that is in and of itself is a privileged ideology, because you haven’t experienced what they experience throughout their life or through generations of historical oppressions.

Overall, #Educon was an amazing conference to attend. The students basically organized the whole event and ran the show. I loved seeing how their involvement cultivated an environment for them and for us to learn and appreciate their voice. If you missed #educon, check out the hashtag, the tweets are amazing and you’ll get many gems and ideas out of them. You can also follow #educon twitter account here, I especially love the fact that students were in charge of the tweets.

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