After Tom and I hosted the first EdCampMSP in June 2012, I was so energized. It was then I started to have this nagging thought in my head, host EdCamp in Bemidji. I had this fear though, Would people even come? Where would it be? Could an outsider come in and sell the idea? These thoughts were coupled with the biggest nagging thought of all, if I you don't give back you are selfish.
It was no secret to anyone close to me that hosting EdCamp Bemidji was perpetuated by the feeling to give back to a community and an area that had given me so much to me. I graduated from Bemidji State in 2002 after transferring there as a junior because I decided to chase a boy (good news, he later became my husband). I won my first US National title in Speedskating on Lake Bemidji. Little secret... on those long back stretches as my back was aching and I wanted to quit, I would look at the University and remind myself how much I accomplished there and how giving up was never an option when I was a student, why would it be now.
Planning for EdCamp Bemidji started as follows: After receiving multiple messages saying, "Please bring EdCamp to northern Minnesota." I knew I had to let go of my fears. I could do this. Tom and I had planned three EdCamps for Minneapolis-St. Paul and we had this down. So I emailed Stacy (Schoolcraft's Technology Integrationist) and said to her point blank, "Want to do something fun?"
It was pretty ironic on how everything fell into place as we started planning. Stacy replied back to that email with, "Sure! Can you give me a call?" Unbeknownst to me, she was actually on her way to talk to Dr. Michael Urban, Department Chair of Bemidji State's Education Department about a way to connect Schoolcraft and BSU, and she offered to toss the idea of EdCamp in there as well. Mike talked to Dean Barta and the ball was rolling. The date was set, the location was picked, and we were off. On Wednesday when registration closed we had 99 attendees. By Saturday morning we were on the front page of the Bemidji Pioneer.
My View Point on EdCamp Bemidji
Understand first, that being able to write this out was by far extremely difficult. Writing what I felt was near impossible as I couldn't even explain how I felt.
As EdCamp Bemidji started Stacy used EdCampMSP's new presentation and new script to introduce the EdCamp concept to attendees and with that we started building the schedule. My responsibility at the moment of schedule building was to ensure that the live schedule would be on the large screen for everyone to view. I looked down for only for a few seconds and when I looked up there was a flood of teachers coming towards me (actually the stack of index cards was in front of me) preparing to propose sessions. It was INSANE! As the sessions were proposed there were a variety of sessions (check out the schedule here).
One session stood out and if you need proof of how powerful EdCamp is this is it. A camper came up and said, "I would like to learn more about how to handle grief and tragedy in the classroom." We asked if anyone could help and got no response, in fact we got more I would like that too (tragic story, the local school district had just lost a 1st grader from hypothermia earlier that week). A few moments later a camper came up and said, "My husband is a mental health/grief counselor, would you like me to call and see if he could come and talk and share?" She called, he came during our fourth session, and we met the need of not only that teacher but so many other teachers on that day.
During the middle of the day we had a presentation entirely in French from Concordia Language Village about lunch. Yes, EdCamp Bemidji included a French lesson that was amazing and funny all at the same time. Then we had a traditional Moroccan lunch. In the word's of one attendee - "My unconference lunch is better than your unconference lunch." She wasn't kidding. In fact, as I talked to an EdCampMSP alumni about the lunch and she said the same thing. Sorry to say Tom, Stacy blew us out of the park when it came to food.
At the end of the day there was the smackdown. Stacy and I felt it would be just best if we showed how a smackdown worked, the reason for this was twofold 1) teachers were totally overwhelmed and 2) we forgot to make the smackdown presentation. So Donna (another EdCampMSP alum and fellow LMS in Osseo) and I showed how the smackdown worked. Although while we were giving our examples other EdCamp Bemidji participants were adding content. In a matter of moments, we went from let's show you to let's all participate.
In short the day was nothing short of amazing. In fact Dean Barta explained it best with one word, "WOW!"
In May Erik and I will be returning to Bemidji State to celebrate another chapter in our life, this time as he graduates. Yet, I know that next February I will repay the community that gave me so much again by assisting to host another installment of EdCamp Bemidji.
Finally, thank you Stacy for taking that risk and I have to ask, "Was it fun?"