by Jen Chapin, Principal, Hatfield Elementary School, Hatfield, MA
In a district as small as Hatfield, with only 400 student’s pk – 12 district wide and 50 professional staff members, it is often a challenge to plan meaningful professional development. This year the challenge was to find something for just the 28 elementary school staff. Because Hatfield is so small, the task often falls on the building principals to schedule, plan and budget for professional development opportunities that meet the needs of all staff members. Compounding the difficulty is the fact that there are so many “singles”. How can I provide high quality P.D. for all the 15 classroom teachers and each of the P.E., art, music, technology, interventionists and special education teachers economically and logistically?
My solution was Edcamp HES!! The big problem was no one knew what an Edcamp was. Someone actually asked me, “Who’s Ed”? The smaller problem was I had no idea how to organize an Edcamp. I had my work cut out for me but I knew that I needed to push myself to offer this exciting experience to my staff!
I am fortunate to have an incredibly supportive superintendent who trusts me and allows me to be creative. When I approached him with the idea of an Edcamp he was fully on-board. I attended an Edcamp that Chris Dodge (this year it’s on March 18th) hosted in the spring, in Orange, MA, with two of my teachers. We were so impressed and knew that we needed to bring this exciting experience to Hatfield. Both teachers committed themselves to helping organize, promote and plan for the day. I could not have pulled it off without their help and creativity and without the assistance from my amazing secretary!
Organizing an Edcamp takes a village! Luckily, Edcamp.org is a great resource. The check lists and helpful hints were invaluable to us. Perhaps the most helpful resource was the video that described an Edcamp. I was able to make the video available to both my staff and neighboring district leaders. Teachers were intrigued and excited to try something new. Of course, it didn’t hurt that we had over 35 raffle prizes to give away as well as breakfast and lunch donated. Edcamp.org and the MTA both gave monetary donations. Local business and authors generously donated items to give away. Edcamp HES was a zero cost professional development day. Talk about a win-win!
More importantly, Edcamp HES was a valuable, relevant day for educators to learn from each other in an informal, supportive setting. Organic conversations developed and continued throughout the day. Teachers had opportunities to talk about their craft and share with each other. People smiled all day! They left inspired and returned the next day recharged and ready to try something they learned the day before.
Exit surveys were very favorable. Teachers felt that they were valued and indicated that they would attend another Edcamp if offered. The only drawback was that only 5 educators from other districts attended. We all agreed that having input from outside the district would offer a different perspective and make for a richer experience.
I met with my P.D. committee last week to plan for the 17/18 school year and their first suggestion was another Edcamp. I am working on getting a neighboring district to commit to partnering with us in the fall. Again, I have the full support of my superintendent and now I have it from my staff!
I encourage my colleagues to take the plunge and try hosting your own Edcamp. Step outside of your comfort zone. I honestly believe it is one of the best experiences of my career. In the mean time, I am excited to attend EdCamp MALeads in Middleton on February 4th. I hope to see many of my friends and colleagues there and I look forward to meeting new friends and learning something new.
Jen Chapin has been principal of Hatfield Elementary School for 10 years. She began her teaching career in Springfield in 1988. She has worked as a teacher, math coach, curriculum specialist, Title I director, assistant principal and director of preschool. She currently serves on the MESPA executive board as treasurer.
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