KCedu: Uniting and Connecting Educators across KC

KCedu's vision is to unite KC area educators (not just K12!) into one connected and innovative learning community that thrives on both face to face and virtual communication. Facilitatating the growth of this community is something that motivates me. KC educators, like educators in many cities/regions, are largely isolated and know little of the edu-awesomeness and community-awesomeness happening all over the city. This un-connectedness is not ideal. Our kids deserve the innovation and opportunities that connectedness can provide. The added bonus is that since we live close to each other, we have the luxury of being able to routinely collaborate face-to-face.

So, KC educators, here is my call to you. Get yourself and your colleagues into the KCedu community by using Twitter and the hashtag #KCedu and by joining the learning in our monthly meetings. We are better together. Plus, it's just more fun that way. :)

The path to KCedu started back on May 31, 2014 at CityCampKC.

The desire to make connections in my city so I could better lead my kids drove me to CityCampKC. I attended not only to get ideas for #edcampKC, an annual unconference educator event held at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art each November,  but to LEARN about my city.  That day sparked much in my life, including an edu-spinoff of 1 Million Cups at the Kauffman Foundation, which we now call #KCedu, and the opportunity to work on the Mayor's Challenge Cabinet as a member of the Community Engagement Team.

Just a few of the genius, generous, and risk-taking KC folks who have helped launch KCedu and offer inspiration along the way:

  • Rebecca Haessig. Started/supported KCedu as an experiment in Kauffman Labs space this summer.
  • Cindy Fisher and Lyn Cook.  KCedu Crew mates. Lucky to work with them.
  • Kari Keefe and Shannon Accardo, Mozilla Gigabit Fund.  Food and support!
  • Katie Boody and Carrie Markel, The Lean Lab. Promoting innovation in KC education.
  • The Kauffman Foundation for donating the space for us to use and 1 Million Cups for the initial inspiration and support.
  • The many educators tweeting on #KCedu hashtag, nurturing our online conversations by sharing creative ideas, tools, and opportunities. Tracey Kracht, Susan Maynor, Jamie Greason, Aaron Duff, Michael Crawford, and many others.

Educators routinely approach me asking if I can get the news out to all districts about a certain program or event. There is no way to do that quickly and efficiently--yet.  In this age of connected tools, if we make it a goal (as a school/district/educator) to get connected, we CAN get connected.

#KCedu can be a one-stop source for educators to stay locally informed, 'get-out-the-word' about events to friends across the city, and find resources, innovation, and inspiration.

"...education and civic leaders should work together to build a portfolio of compelling schools and programs."

~Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento in Smart Cities That Work for Everyone, by Tom VanderArk (currently reading!)

I found out at CityCampKC, that while I thought I was a relatively well-connected educator, I was NOT well-connected to the place I should be --- MY CITY. I felt pretty clueless looking at some of the boards. What is the Big 5? Startup Village? At the end of the day, I knew I had work to do. With my 20 years as an educator in 3 different districts in KC, I set off to know my city and work to connect it with education.

How can we accomplish what Kevin Johnson speaks of above if KC educators themselves are not connected, let alone connected to the many resources, people, and innovative ideas in their city? We need each other and our city needs us. Education drives smart cities.KCedu

6  months later, following my passion and with a lot of help from edfriends, here we are. #KCedu is growing with both face to face and online conversations and collisions. Our January meetup recap video is below. Most of us stayed a full 45 minutes afterwards networking, talking, collaborating, getting contact info, and taking pictures/selfies. :) There was a great feeling tone to the evening. A handful of us went for a post-event collaboration at Nick and Jake's. I made new friends with whom I'm now tweeting, planning, learning, and GROWING.

My most recent Aha: The Beauty and Power of Conferring

I've happily spent the past year in a district cohort working with Cris Tovani and Sam Bennett. One of the biggest ahas for me has been the conferring piece. Instead of just talking with the kids while standing, SIT DOWN with them. Talk one on one about content. Like you're in a cafe.

Before the cohort, I would actively walk around and talk with kids, especially those who needed my help, but I was more a monitor than a focused content conferrer. Reflecting back on MY school years, I don't remember teachers sitting beside me (or beside other students) during class and talking with me about the content, my thoughts, or my questions. If I asked my teachers for help, they, of course, would help me, but I have no memories of frequent 1:1 content conversations during class.

I'll tell you this, the teachers that impacted my life and remain in my thoughts to this day are the ones with whom I HAD CONVERSATIONS in class (as well as outside of class). Those teachers were largely my coaches and fine arts teachers--show choir (Mr. Schneider), volleyball (Coach Schooley), newspaper (Mrs. Hornaday). I had extended content talk time with them as we worked to put on a good 'show', whether that show was a concert, a volleyball game, or paper. Talking to learn. Along with way, we'd talk life, cares, hopes, dreams, interests, and so on. The emotional and behavioral connections naturally fell in place with the content/skill discussions.

Two high school content teachers that influenced me greatly, Mr. Price and Mrs. Northup (physics and history), TOLD STORIES. Even though they did not confer with me at my desk in class I connected with them through laughter and images formed in my mind's eye--and in my heart. Mr. Price's class was where I launched my punster ways and reigned supreme in wordplay. :) Two middle school content teachers that changed me, Mrs. May and Mrs. Sybert, took interest in me, mostly outside of class. Mrs. May inspired me in the ways she taught Science and look what I now teach. My content teachers did not typically sit down, pull up a chair, and engage in 1:1 content conversation during class with me. If they HAD done that, I can imagine how much stronger the impact on me would have been. I look at classrooms that do this seated conferring and I see BEAUTY. Then I wonder why we haven't been doing that all along.

Yes, I sat down on a log beside these guys and we talked about what natural resources they were using and how it would help form an effective water carrier. They got muddy. I didn't. :)

I believe in my heart of educational hearts that increasing time TALKING with kids 1:1 IN CLASS about content is imperative to impacting our kids on all 3 levels--cognitive, emotional, behavioral--for the rest of their lives. Embedded in 1:1 content conferring during class are the emotional and behavioral pieces.

When it's student learning time, I work the room. I SIT DOWN and TALK with my kids, both 1:1 and in small groups. I learn each time I watch Cris Tovani masterfully confer with kids. Before I would largely remain standing as I interacted with kids. Now, when it's work time I sit in chairs, I sit on the floor, I perch on my knees besides them. It is actually pretty intense, but so worth it and so right for student growth.

My new VISION and VIEW of my classroom is the following:

I'm in a cafe. Yes. A cafe. When class starts, I set up the reason/purpose and teach the mini-lesson-- and then it's time to converse in the CAFE with my favorite people, my students! I get to go out into my cafe and SIT DOWN and TALK 1:1 with a handful of kids each day about big ideas, facts, questions, concerns, and guide and coach my kids. It's energizing and it's real. Here is a summer Instagram video from the cafe my family and I visited today --

I couldn't believe my ears when I heard this quote from the brilliant mind of Samantha Bennett at our most recent meeting. Did she read my mind? She and Cris Tovani actually helped plant that seed in my mind.

"Having a literate conversation with each student as if you were at a cafe--that is the goal of conferring."

~Samantha Bennett January 8, 2015

Learners and learning communities thrive on face to face conversation. We know that intuitively as connected educators. Try increasing your 1:1 content conferring sitting down beside your learners and see what happens! I'd love to hear your thoughts.