Protect the TeachMeet Format

A TeachMeet is an informal gathering of educators curious about other people’s ideas on learning. Educators are a nosey bunch! We love the chance to look around other people’s classrooms and to use ideas that have had success elsewhere.

When we attend a TeachMeet or any professorial development event the currency is ideas, we are dealing in ideas. We go with our own and most of the time we are up for trading them with those from other teachers. Broadly speaking whichever course we are attending we hope there is something that we can take back and apply to our own classes.

I think the emphasis on real, practical ideas and stories from the classroom is great but I think we must always remember that the format they are delivered in must be nurtured too.

One of the main reasons people don’t attend such an event cold, (ie. never attended before, not heard of it before) is the assumption it will be like 95% of all professional development teachers have had since university. Basically an expert, paid, invited, revered (?) speaker telling them how it is / was / should be.

The style of TeachMeet breaks that mould. The people attending are all experts, there is a relaxed approach to learning. We all understand that some of us prefer to flit between things, some of us prefer to become engrossed. Some of us stand, some of us sit, some of us Tweet. And that is all OK.

One of the reasons we don’t present is that so many of us believe our own ideas are not going to be good enough. That MY IDEA + CONFERENCE + PRESENTING = DOOM. But our own ideas are ones we have already committed to – so often they are successful little sparks that have been brilliantly useful in our own spaces. Growing into glowing flames in our classrooms. How do we get beyond the thought that sharing the flame might extinguish it?

Perhaps we need to organise smaller TeachMeets.

If I attended a meeting with 20 educators and I took away 19 practical classroom ideas – I would be really happy! Are those 20 people going to be more willing to share their ideas in that smaller group – probably. Are those 20 teachers going to return to their schools ever so slightly more willing to speak up in a staff meeting and make their voice heard and to share an idea they got from elsewhere – hopefully.

So the very nature of the event needs to be nurtured so that it is not what you might think from a conference. That old assumptions have to be disbanded from the outset. After all a teachmeet doesn’t need a sponsor, technology – it just needs us to bring our ideas and be willing to make that trade.

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Pic – TeachMeet at BETT 2010 by Mr Ush

  1. I was really inspired by this post when you wrote it. I was just in the process of organising my first teachmeet in Birmingham – I’d got loads of sponsors in and was really beginning to push it strongly amongst the schools I have contact with in Birmingham. Then I read this post and it made me place in higher priority the people who had already signed. I held back from pushing any further and made the event as good as I could for those who were attending. At the event itself, it was a great to have a mixture of regular teachmeet attenders and newbies, both of whom presented. That blend between new people and old is really key I think, which is why I like you challenge to invite new people on your recent post where you promote the Teachmeet Midlands. With that in mind, I can’t quite square the theory of what you’ve written above, with the practice of what has happened with Teachmeet Midlands.

    “Perhaps we need to organise smaller Teachmeets,”

    “A teachmeet doesn’t need a sponsor, technology…”

    “If I attended a meeting with 20 educators and I took away 19 practical classroom ideas – I would be really happy.”

    I really agree with all these sentiments, but Teachmeet Midlands has 80 people coming to it, 20 people are presenting, 14 of whom I recognise from other teachmeets. It’s going to be an amazing time, full of buzz, ideas and creativity – everyone will come away inspired. I just can’t quite square the words of the above post with the event that’s happening.

    I don’t write this as a naysayer or a misery-guts – I love Teachmeets and think big or small they all can be an amazing inspiration; but when big ones are so successful, shining and golden, how are small ones going to be organised and perpetuated?

  2. So, I’m willing to throw my hat into the ring and try to get a “TeachMeet’ set up locally. Where can I find the format? I love the sound of it and I know teachers are generally happy to share. Thanks for sharing and the idea.

  3. Like I have said to John above – all you need is some other willing people to do the same and a place to gather. Add structure or no structure it is entirely up to you. We should all feel empowered to organise our own CPD. Here are those links again – TeachMeet wiki to see if there is any already planned near you – and checkout some rough guidelines here – let me know if I can help any further.

  4. I have been to all sorts and varieties/ flavours of TeachMeets and think they can be very threatening if much bigger – especially if a number of people seem to know one another and this can seem exclusive and intimidating to an outsider. At smaller scale there is a lot more discussion and reflection around the practice people show and people open out more. At bigger ones it is definitely an ‘event’ sometimes more than a meetup. The dangers are obvious – an echo chamber where no-one challenges practice; a co-oping, embracing and extending by corporates slowly eroding the format and a gradual dilution and lack of nurturing. What worries me most though, is the fact that parents don’t attend, children don’t attend, people from other sectors don’t attend. I think these options should be there and I don’t think they would water down the formats. I don’t think you can treat the format as sacred either – it will change and evolve in different directions. I have recently seen the emergence of kids or learnmeet (which is what it should be called anyway). I don’t think anyone now has a claim to exclusive expertise in the classroom. Sometimes someone standing up in a room full of people can be th making of them and their professional development and self-esteem. other times a low-key approach and a highly reflective and positive input in a far far more informal setting may be the key. I don’t think we can proscribe any one way of doing things that would be unenlightened surely? Maybe the best TeachMeet may well be in the school and with the wider surrounding community itself, hyperlocal but involving far more stakeholders than just teachers?

  5. This is a great idea! Actually this is the whole reason why I began blogging in the first place. I would enjoy brainstorming and sharing ideas and lessons with others. My district requires a minimum of 45 days of advanced notice before I could leave for a conference but I would really enjoy something like this.

  6. Really like this idea and I have not heard of it before. Does anyone know where I can find out more and get help in setting up one? I am an AST in Teaching and Learning at a large Cornish secondary school.

  7. I have been to a number of TeachMeets: both large and small. I have found that all TeachMeets offer something that regular CPD does not: a real sharing of ideas that are usable and useful in the classroom.
    I do see your point about the scale though: TMPembs had about 30ish people floating in and out of the room (less later in the day). It was laid back and intimate and we had many impromptu discussions – all worthwhile. We have since recreated TeachMeet style sharing in out school staff meetings: three short items at the beginning of each one, only one of which is ICT based. Maybe more people should be doing something similar.

  8. The teachmeets I’ve attended have been much smaller than conferences 12-15 so more intimate, less threatening & you do learn SO much in detail as you can talk to each other more easily.

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