Mix. Mingle. Flamingo. Flamingle
Keywords: flamingo, flock, flamingle, human, wishing tree
I am in England and on the 3rd day of the trip, I am at my first educator’s conference in the UK. Imagine entering a college, surrounded by a flock of teachers and greeted by a jubilant woman with flaming red hair, dressed in a custom skirt with painted flamingoes, preening a boa of hot pink feathers around her neck as she gracefully flaps her arms and ambles like a bird, welcoming this colony of educators and inviting us to FLAMINGLE with each other.
Meet Head Teacher Rae Snape. Of course, I giggle at the fact that I am in England and our teacher is Snape! A head teacher in England is the equivalent of a principal in the US. Snape has chosen a theme to emphasize the gathering of educators in this moment. I keep trying to picture my principals at home squawking and walking like a bird- but knowing our principals, they will do anything to support teachers and learning.
What made this experience different from professional development at home were a few key factors:
- Head teachers were presenters at this conference for teachers. Sometimes our educational leadership training unites leaders with other leaders, but rarely do I see principal as lead teacher at content conferences.
- The content of the conference was literally about being human. The mantra repeated was clearly, we are humans first and teachers second. Our students are humans first and students second.
- The presenters reinforced the premise that humans are a challenge driven species. We like to tackle problems to be solved. In order for learners to thrive, the environments we create must provide a balance of High Challenge and Low Risk. When we create environments of High Challenge/High Risk, we will not yield results. Children cannot learn in constant fear of testing, retention and consequence.
Lunch tied the themes together. Brown bags were provided for teachers. We did not eat take out, or take away, as they say in the UK. The sandwiches were not spectacular feasts. Options included egg salad, vegetarian, meat, and cucumbers with crème cheese. But wait…here is when talk meets action. Teachers walked across the lawn to a large tent, filled with moroccan rugs. We kicked off our shoes as acoustic guitar players performed as we sunned, ate, laughed and enjoyed our bare feet in the grass. We were then invited to create tags of wishes to attach to a wishing tree, where they would be released to drift on the wind at the end of the conference.
No rushing to fast food joints. No piling in cars to make it back to training in time. Just a bunch of teachers, being human, flocking together in bare feet and flamingling!