7:30am Friday. Empty Classroom. Coffee coursing through my veins. Nerves on edge.
Tired for no reason other than being tired. Nervous...They will be here in 30 minutes. Have the things I have done this week made an impact? Did they learn something? How will it impact their life? What will they use? What will they pass off as just some guy/gal talking? Who are the next leaders? Who needs some support to become successful? Who is on the verge of giving in but one word will keep them engaged longer?
This is a typical Friday morning for most of us but this particular Friday morning is different for me. The “They/Them” in this case is a group of 60+ video production teachers from around the state of Georgia who have convened for the 2018 Camp T&I at the Golden Isles College and Career Academy in Brunswick. This is by far the best professional development opportunity for teachers in the state. It is 60% professional development, 25% family reunion, and 15% support group.
Camp T&I is a professional development event that welcomes teachers from a variety of pathways including graphic design, automotive, machining, metals, construction, and of course video production. The event is produced by the Career Tech Agriculture Education Resource Network (CTAERN) which, according to the website ctaern.org, is a “non-profit organization established in 2002 to strengthen and support Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) initiatives in Georgia. CTAERN is a unique consortium dedicated to providing exemplary professional development activities and other high quality services designed to meet the instructional career development needs of the educators of Georgia.” CTAERN creates hundreds of professional development opportunities for CTAE (Georgia adds the “A” for agriculture) teachers throughout the year. Most sessions are free to attend for those who’s systems participate in the network (travel is usually covered by local systems).
I attended my first Camp T&I (T = trade / I = Industry) in the summer of 2012. It was much smaller then but there was something special. The dozen or so teachers shared freely with things they teach, experiences, in the classroom, and more. The event was literally in a deep, dark corner of a Savannah Technical College with no internet and basic presentation needs.
Now Camp T&I for video teachers requires 3 classrooms and a conference room to comfortably house the teachers and technology abounds. This year we used Zoom Meetings to handle the teleconferences with Don Goble, Jeff Marker from the University of North Georgia, Pete Mitchell from JPM Productions, and Richard for Red Giant. The local newspaper, The Brunswick News, visited this year and published this write up about the event including the technology used: https://thebrunswicknews.com/news/local_news/gicca-hosts-statewide-teacher-collaboration-workshop/article_cce396f9-04bf-5eca-863b-fd26ae8ee360.html
The power of Camp T&I lies in the fact that the sessions are all topics requested by the teachers and in most cases presented by teachers. It’s no secret that teaching is a tough profession and that as video production teachers we are often the only one in our building and sometimes within our county so Camp T&I is a welcome relief to a lot of teachers who never get to talk with actual video production teachers about what they experience and get and give advice. There were 35 sessions throughout the two and half day program. The topics ranged from how to create a news package through short film production and streaming tips.
The success of Camp T&I lies in several things. First and foremost, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Brunswick, Georgia is a port city near several nice beach communities. A lot of the teachers bring their families and share time outside of Camp T&I with them. This allows for more of the family reunion feel because several groups of teachers seem to pal around all week with their families. Don’t believe me - go to Barbara Jeans on St. Simon’s Island the first day of Camp T&I… Teachers abound!
The date of the event is also very important. Most schools systems in Georgia end the school year prior to memorial day. Teachers usually have 3 to 5 days to finish post planning. Camp T&I is the 2nd week in June. This is great because we have had a chance to get out of “school” mode and take care of some things that we need for our personal lives but we haven’t gotten so far out of school mode that we aren’t willing to spend a couple days learning and sharing.
Another factor in the success of Camp T&I is the sessions. We start almost literally the day after Camp T&I ends planning for the next year. This includes recapping what we liked and didn’t like about the last event, listing sessions we would like to see again, listing sessions we thought of while we watched other sessions, and this year, we actually are going to request adding an extra day. The extra day is because of one of the coolest things we do while we are there: we actually produce! The idea is simple - decide what you want to produce (News Package or Short Film), team up, go produce. We have done this the last several years and it has been amazing. The relationships that have been built in this simple exercise are amazing. The reason for adding the additional day is simple: 3 hours is not enough time. If our request is granted, we will take an entire 8 hour period to produce a short film or a 30 minute newscast with several packages, etc. The opportunity to get out into the field with other colleagues and work is invaluable. The truth is simple - we learn best by doing but most professional development is a “sit and get.” This is why we get bored at most professional development, we, as video teachers, are do’ers - we are naturally people who want to produce so at Camp T&I, we produce.
Some would say the success of Camp T&I is something that should be a part of ALL professional development sessions: food…. Good, High Quality, Not from a box or a bag food. Our host, Kevin Pullen and his family do a tremendous job of keeping all of the attendees fed. Kevin and I talked at the conclusion of this year’s camp and discussed how we don’t have people who don’t show up or beg out of a session. The teachers are in seats and ready to go at 8am and we usually have to turn the lights off at 4pm to get them to leave and we attribute a part of that to the food. (If you are working on professional development for your school, PLAN FOR FOOD).
Camp T&I is a great opportunity for our teachers throughout the state to meet and share ideas and fellowship. Some of the best things I have taken away from Camp T&I happen when I least expect it. It could be a conversation in the hallway between sessions or an informal group that just sat down together at lunch and never got up. I share the info about Camp T&I to hopefully encourage you to try to build something like this in your area. Start small - make it a county wide session then build to the next level and so on. Find ways to interact with teachers outside of your building an learn new things that you never knew existed.