[eJP note: The suggestions for presenters are applicable in many other settings including: Limmud, staff trainings etc.]
By Ken Gordon
JEDCAMP Boston is bearing down on Beantown. (The GPS says it will arrive on September 7, 2 p.m., at JCDS, Boston.) And if you’re anything like me, you think the collision can’t happen soon enough. In fact, you’re relishing the idea that this monster truck of an unconference – we’ll gather a deliberately mixed group of people passionate about Jewish education and let ‘em teach each other – may pave some new possibilities for Jewish learning. You want JEDCAMP Boston to bump into the siloed worlds of our day schools and camps and religious schools and Jewish studies programs, forcing us all to face one another directly, without walls. When JEDCAMP Boston finally pulls up, we will cheer, because it will make us all stronger educators: of our students, our children, our peers, and ourselves.
But at some point in anticipating JEDCAMP’s roaring arrival, you will surely pull over to the side and ask yourself the entirely reasonable question: Wait, what am I going to present?
We recognize that not every JEDCAMPion is a teacher, and not everyone knows how to drive home a great session. But we truly believe that everyone has the potential to do so. All you need is some knowledge, passion, a desire to connect with people who seek to learn. Consider the following as a roadmap to a great session.
Read the Manual
That is: do your homework. Ensure that you do your research beforehand. Read up on your subject and ensure that you’ve internalized this information. You will be talking to many educational professionals who know their stuff very well – and they want to learn!
Your audience will expect you to be up on your topic. If you have questions about which books or articles to consult, pose them to JEDLAB – this smart, open, giving Jewish-ed group will surely help you find the necessary texts, and will even help you sharpen your focus, if you’d like.
Blathering on is bad; conversation is good. A major part of your job as a JEDCAMP Boston presenter is to resist the temptation to show everyone how smart you are and, instead, to connect with the people in front of you.
“JEDcamps will focus more on conversation and participation than on presentation,” says JEDcamp.org, adding that “Many sessions will likely involve making, playing, creating, and doing.”
Get them doing something. Something interesting. Could be translating Amichai into Yiddish, baking innovative new kinds of challah, designing futuristic tallit, whatever. But if your session is all talk – and only talk – it will be a lonely session.
Shira Leibowitz, Head of School of Solomon Schechter of Queens and a veteran JEDCAMPer says: “Great presentation is like a great class – includes full class presentation w/substance & opportunity for group collaboration & individual reflection – participants have room to consider adapting insights to their own reality.”
Learn to Toss the TripTik
JEDCAMP Boston is structured to be casual. You know that old saying, “JEDCAMP plans, God laughs”? If not, get to know that old pedagogical chestnut. Don’t expect JEDCAMP Boston to be like, say, a college lecture. You will not face a room full of people sitting obediently in rows taking down your every word. It will be more like a late-night debate in the dorm lounge. People interjecting, questioning, sharing, probing.
So do draw up a lesson plan, but don’t be married to it. (Casually seeing your lesson plan is entirely acceptable in the JEDCAMP Boston world.) Leibowitz says that session leader must be “adaptive and flexible.” Think of yourself as a jazz composer. You’ve written the tune, but your purpose is not to control the direction of the jam, but to let others step into the stoplight and wail.
Make it a Joy Ride
Perhaps the chief thing we’re looking for here, in presenters and attendees, is a willingness to have fun with learning. Fun, of course, is a highly subjection thing… but the real trick here is isolating what you find fun about your subject and then working like hell to transmit your passion to the people who wander into your session.
We suspect that the casual nature of JEDCAMP Boston learning will loosen up some professional teachers, allow some administrators to rediscover their passion for the classroom, and give those unaccustomed to leading a class the confidence to stand up and get people excited about Jewish education.
For some, the joy will be found in writing weird new melodies for “Adon Olam.” For others, it’s designing action figures to embody different middot. And some of the weirdoes in your midst will get all excited when you mash up the idea of Jewish ed and monster trucks. We want ‘em all at JEDCAMP Boston.
Ken Gordon, the Senior Social Media Manager and Content Strategist for PEJE and the Co-Founder of JEDLAB, says: “If you haven’t yet RSVP’d for JEDCAMP Boston, you gotta do so – right now – at the website or on the Facebook event page. See you in September, and be sure to wear your seatbelt.”