Friday, June 26, 2015

#ptcamp- Explaining the unexplainable

For the past year, I've been a part of a wonderful online, interactive community of learners.  The members of this community are from all over the world, nine different time zones to be exact, with parents, teachers, building and district level administrators, authors, and state and local school boards.  These individuals have become a family to me and I can't really explain why.  It's something that will probably only happen once in my lifetime.  I would love to have it occur again, but the perfect storm of people, conversations, and activities is nearly impossible to replicate.  That doesn't mean, however, that I won't give it a try.  I really think that you should, too.  So, here's what you'll need. (To my #ptcamp family, I hope you notice the use of "P" words!)

  1. People-  This is where it all begins.  You'll need a group of people that are willing to take chances, have honest conversations, share their ideas, and ask for suggestions.  The #ptcamp family which began in June of 2014 has people with all of these qualities.
  2. Passion- This is defined as a "strong and barely controllable emotion."  The #ptcamp family exudes family engagement.  Sure, we had conversations about things other than this, like our own families and schools, but ultimately the conversations came back to the main focus- family engagement within our schools
  3. Purpose- The purpose of #ptcamp family was to share ways that we all encouraged family engagement.  Like any good group of educators, we "stole" ideas from one another, came up with new ideas, and shared stories of things we tried that just didn't work.
So how did all of this work so well for the first edition of #ptcamp?  It started with a great book, "Beyond the Bake Sale", written by Anne Henderson, Karen Mapp, Vivian Johnson, and Don Davies.

Dr. Joe Mazza (@Joe_Mazza) pitched the idea of a global book discussion around the book, asked for people to sign up, and encouraged the conversations to begin.  Interested participants used Twitter, Voxer, Apprenet, and personal blogs to share their thoughts and ideas.  We all got to know one another through the social media apps, but no one could ever imagine the connections we would make during the book chat.

Although the formal chat ended in early August, a core group of passionate individuals stayed on board and continued the discussion throughout the school year.  This, I believe, is when the family started to gain strength.  The school year began and we spoke about all of the ideas we had to improve upon family engagement in our schools.  Some were successful, and others were not, but we celebrated the successes together and talked through the disappointments.  Just this week, many of us met in person for the first time.  But that is a story for another blog.  I'm still too overwhelmed to be able to put my thoughts into words about that.

The moral of the story is this.  Find a group of people who are passionate about a topic.  Connect with them, face to face or through social media.  Foster conversations around the passion.  Find your own purpose through these conversations.  Share your successes and your challenges with one another.  But, most importantly, take a risk and push yourself to places that are uncomfortable.  You will learn more than you could ever imagine, you'll connect with great people, and you might even find that you have a family that you didn't even know about.

Now, #ptcamp friends, who's next to share their thoughts?

If you are interested in joining the next #ptcamp, here is a link and explanation so that you can sign up.
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