Why go to a teachmeet?

#tmBrum logoOne of the most intriguing lines in the UK Teacher Standards document (revised June 2013) is:

”demonstrate a critical understanding of developments in the subject and curriculum areas, and promote the value of scholarship”

It is for this reason that I believe teachers should attend teachmeets. Let me explain why.

Firstly, think about the CPD in your school.

Hold that thought.

Just a little longer…

Now. Does that CPD really help you? Does it, indeed, help you to: “demonstrate a critical understanding of developments in the subject and curriculum areas, and promote the value of scholarship.

If it does, great – you need read on no more. For these people, where CPD means a community of practice, peer review and honest professional learning without the pressure of looming accountability, teachmeets could be a pleasant but unnecessary bonus. For the rest of us, teachmeets can be the only chance we get to learn from other teachers.

Let’s be honest, much CPD time in school is taken up by school needs, and not professional learning needs. CPD is often used by leadership to impose the latest whole school agenda, to prepare for the next inspection visit or deal with sudden crises that spring up. And for those of us who plan CPD for staff, we’ve probably all had the experience where we think we’ve got a marvellous session of professional learning lined up, but at the last minute, someone more senior asks: can I just take 5 minutes at the start of your meeting to let staff know about this issue?” The consequence of this is that everyone is thinking about the ‘issue’ and not the learning.

And of course often times the very people leading the CPD are also the ones who we are accountable too. This can lead to role conflict, where the teacher can be sitting there wondering whether they are a professional learner, or an appraisee, and similarly the trainer can be wondering whether they are a presenter or an appraiser. I know, I have experienced role conflict in both positions.

This is why teachmeets can be so vital. Imagine learning off other teachers where there is no conflict with any appraisal process. Imagine no interruptions from whole school messages. Imagine improving your own practice by comparing and reviewing the practice of others.

Of course teachmeets have changed since they first started. There has been some criticism that they have become over sponsored, and more about the event then the learning. I am keen that we have more teachmeets, but smaller ones if necessary, because I suppose I really think that they should be more like study groups than conference events.

I am helping to organise a teachmeet in South West Birmingham this Tuesday 26th November. It won’t be big, probably less than 30 people, but you will definitely learn something should you attend or tune in online. There are other teachmeets happening locally too, including one in East Birmingham the following Monday 2nd December. You can check the teachmeet wiki to find out if there are any happening near you.

Whatever you think of the changes to teaching in the UK over the last few years, it is hard to disagree with the aspiration behind the teacher standard: “demonstrate a critical understanding of developments in the subject and curriculum areas, and promote the value of scholarship”. It seems right to me that teachers should want to be up-to-date, to be scholarly, to be academic. Teachmeets are a great way to achieve this.