I unashamedly love TeachMeets. In my opinion, they are one of the most inspirational forms of professional development going around. The TeachMeet concept originated in Scotland in 2006when Ewan McIntosh and a merry band of teachers got together to discuss the potential for learning. The concept has reached the shores of Australia and on 30th August 2011 I attended my first TeachMeet when I attended a #TMSydney event at Northern Beaches Christian School. Since then, I’ve caught the TeachMeet bug. I’ve hosted one with the fabulous Malyn Mawby, attended and presented countless #TMSydney around Sydney, presented at a virtual PLANE teachmeet, been a part of the massive TeachMeet World Record and hosted the first virtual #TMSydney. I have teamed up with other amazing educators through my involvement in #TMSydney includingHenrietta Miller, Matt Esterman, Pip Cleaves, Rolfe Kolbe, Jeannette James and Simon Crook. The journey has been amazing and I’m hooked.
Today, I attended the #TMSydney #TMHills (there can never be just one hastag can there? LOL) event at Gilroy College, hosted by the fantastic Monique Dalli (see first image). Unfortunately I had to sneak (sort of) out before the end to get home but it was, as always, fantastic. The inspiration, innovation and enthusiasm that explodes out of a #TMSydney venue constantly amazes and inspires me.
I remember talking to Tom Barrett after the #TMSydney event at Ravenswood last year, hosted by Summer Howarth and he indicated how much more powerful the TeachMeet experience can be when it isn’t just Tweeting teachers in attendance, when the content isn’t just focused on the tools of teaching and how to use them. Today, I witnessed that kind of TeachMeet. I’ve been inspired by every TeachMeet I’ve attended, in real-life or virtual, but today was just magical and here’s my favourite bits:
- I loved Polly Dunning‘s (see second image) opening presentation on flipping her Year 11 English classroom for so many reasons. I’ve followed Polly on Twitter for a while and I was lucky enough to catch up with her for coffee in real life, for the first time a couple of weeks ago. She is a teacher at the high school that my kids will attend and I’m so excited that my kids might have the pleasure of learning with her in the classroom. Professionally, it was great to see an English teacher perspective of the flipped classroom – any
presentation I’ve seen in the past has always been Maths or Science based. I wanted to rush out and start making Screencast videos of Shakespeare lessons and poetry lessons. I don’t even teach English anymore! I also loved that Polly is a teacher in a Western Sydney public school. As I work in North Sydney, I have mainly attended TeachMeets in that area. I loved hearing a teacher speak passionately and honestly about teaching in a public school in Sydney’s west – the place where I grew up, went to school and still live. Polly explained the concept of the flipped classroom simply, clearly identified how she had set it up in her day-to-day teaching practice and highlighted the epic wins she’d had since flipping her Year 11 English class. You’re amazing Polly!
- I was amazed at Col O’Connell’s presentation on Project Excel. He’s a teacher at Gilroy College and by his own admission, older than all but one person in the room. He explored differentiated learning (drawing on John Hattie’s research) and how the school has approached it in the classroom to ensure the learning and understanding of all students is improved. I have been involved with some differentiated learning discussions at school lately but Col’s explanation of his journey, really helped me to understand a lot of the concepts that are explored in Hattie’s research that had been floating around in my head. After listening to Col, those ideas have stopped floating and formed into a stronger understanding of differentiated learning. But that’s not the best bit about Col’s presentation. The best bit is Col himself. Col isn’t on Twitter and this is not a bad thing. Whenever promoting a #TMSydney event I always encourage teachers to ‘bring a friend’ to the event to share the TeachMeet love. Better yet, if I can get a teacher to present who usually doesn’t present during PD sessions, that’s even better. Like with Polly, it was great to listen to Col’s honest and passionate presentation.
- Familiar faces are expected at most TeachMeets I attend in Sydney. It was great to see my good friends, Malyn Mawby, Damian Wanstall and Clarinda Brown in the room. These three awesome individuals also presented on the night and they were amazing! Clarinda’s reflection on being a learner on her recent ski trip, Malyn’s 2-minutes-of-power on student reflection and Damo’s reflections on leadership were awesome and even though I might talk/tweet/text with them often, I still have so much to learn from friends. Another good friend, Mitch Squires was also in attendance – he didn’t present but I did learn that you should never leave your iPad lying around at a TeachMeet 😉 It was great to catch up withAlex Wharton as always – I just never get enough time to talk to him and hear about what’s happening in his classroom. The most exciting familiar face that greeted me almost immediately as I walked in the room was that of Sarah Warby, who was a prac teacher at my previous school when I worked there last year. Like Col, she’s not on Twitter, so it was great to see the #TMSydney bug had reached out to yet another person. I spoke to her briefly at the half-way point and her mind was blown! In a good way of course. She had ideas, strategies and resources ready to take back to her classroom – after just one hour of presentations! I love my friends and it’s so great that I get to share the #TMSydney ride with them (and quite a few strangers too).
So they were the best bits! I then had an hour drive back home and as always I was hyperactive (TeachMeets are like a drug!) and thinking about and reflecting on the TeachMeet. These were my immediate thoughts:
- First, I really hope my kids get to have Polly as their English and/or Drama teacher at some point once they hit high school 🙂
- I miss teaching my own classes. I still work in a school. I still get to stand in front of a class every now and then and teach students. I occasionally get to help students learn. But I don’t get to build the relationships with classes and individuals. I don’t get to build a sequence of learning experiences that allow kids to discover something new, create something amazing or build their self esteem. I don’t miss the report writing at all but that’s just one small negative amid the very rewarding experience of being a classroom teacher. Teaching really is the best job in the world.
- Finally, I want the TeachMeet experience to spread further into public schools in Sydney’s western suburbs. I grew up in the Hawkesbury area, went to school in Penrith, taught in public schools in both areas and live at the foot of the Blue Mountains where my own kids now go to public schools. I know that TeachMeets are not the only PD experience available to teachers but I have always found them the most rewarding. Some teachers in Sydney’s west often feel isolated and uninspired as they face daily challenges in their classrooms that might not exist or be as prevalent in other areas of Sydney. I would love for a two-hour TeachMeet event to inspire and reinvigorate those teachers. There are awesome schools, teachers, students, classrooms and learning happening in Western Sydney schools and they can certainly be celebrated and shared. I must run or help to run more #TMSydney events in Western Sydney schools and/or pubs 🙂
So today, I chose awesome. I attended a TeachMeet. Have you been to one? What did you like about it?