Here’s one for the small teachmeet

I had a few small pangs of regret when I missed Teachmeet BETT this year. It was the teachmeet at BETT a few years ago which inspired me to run a  teachmeet in Birmingham, and I know other have been likewise inspired.

Friday’s event was surely a great feat of organisation, and credit must go to all the organisers, volunteers and sponsors who helped out.

However I am getting increasingly wary of events. There are 13 teachers in my school and only one, aside from myself, is connected in any way with teachers from other schools. The question I come back to is how can I inspire my teachers to find their own great CPD, their own networks and maintain their own learning journey? My teachers are FAB. They do an amazing job in their classrooms. Yet they have been to huge conferences and been wowed by amazing speakers and I have even foisted a teachmeet upon them, yet they still won’t engage in these events of their own accord.

My reasoning now is that these CPD events have always been too big: I need to engage my staff in smaller groups, maybe even 1:1 relationships, for them to really move on with their own CPD.

Aside from my own staff, I am concerned with who speaks at teachmeets. When an event is massive, you have to have really good speakers – and there were some brilliant speakers at this year’s teachmeet BETT. But there must also be a place for teachers to develop their public speaking in smaller groups – and a small teachmeet is perfect for this. A teachmeet is away from the school-enforced CPD demands and devoid of any performance management overtones and so is a brilliant way for people to learn about presenting their ideas and sharing their best practice.

It’s short notice, but I’m still hoping to help someone run a teachmeet in Birmingham on National Teachmeet Day on 6th Feb – if anyone wants to get a few folk together at their school in the 2nd city, let me know and I’ll lend a hand.

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.

When shall we have Teachmeet Brum?

Tmbrum1

So I’m looking to organise a Teachmeet in Birmingham sometime in March.

 

My preferred date would be Friday 9th March of Friday 16th March. I have a city centre venue with free parking that’s about 5 minutes walk from Broad Street, so I’m figuring we could go for a Teachmeet and then a TeachEat at a decent Birmingham balti place.

 

But here’s the thing – I’m not quite sure about Fridays. Being an inexperienced Teachmeet organiser (having only done one previously and that was mid-week), is Friday just to late in the week? Are we all too tired on Fridays?

 

So here’s a chance to influence the decision. Please fill in this spreadsheet to answer the question: When shall we have Teachmeet Brum?