Sunday, 17 November 2013

Letting the drawbridge down - teachmeets

I led my first ever teachmeet  (teach meet / Teach Meet / TeachMeet – there is no consistency of how people write this so I will stick with my first attempt) and I loved it. The ideas presented were great and all the people left with some ideas or thoughts to use in the classroom. I’d love to divulge some of the things here, but the presenters might want to store their nuggets of great teaching ideas for another meeting or for their blogs. However, I left the whole experience with at least ten new ideas that I will use in the classroom next week. Plus, I have a warm, fuzzy feeling as everybody was so positive and friendly, which leads me on to….

Why are people so hesitant to attend a teachmeet? Yes, they do eat up your free valuable time and they do take you away from friends, family and marking, but why not give them a try? I used to think that it was full of smug people, boasting about how great they were at teaching.  Why would I want to go to something that will only make me feel inferior and inadequate? I felt and feel a real sense of community and purpose from attending and participating in teachmeets.

They say no man is an island, but a lot of teachers are castles: tough walls and a drawbridge that doesn’t come down. They have had to be tough because of their circumstances, their school or the pressures they are under.  But when the drawbridge is down people feel better. Understanding that others are experiencing the same things as you have is important. Understanding that others have made the same mistakes as you is vital. Understanding that others are asking the same questions as you is pivotal. Opening the drawbridge is so important, yet so many don’t because of the fear. The fear of being judged. The fear of looking weak. The fear of looking like they cannot cope. I have only felt a ‘can do’ feeling from leaving a meeting. We have a culture of do or die in society. People either sink or swim. This permeates a lot of society and I think the culture rubs off on our students. If we aren’t open to making mistakes in class, then how can we expect students to take risks? We learn from our mistakes but we don’t always like to admit this.

Schools should be looking at where things go wrong and look for solutions and not problems. This scapegoating approach is detrimental to education.  Something went wrong so let’s replace the whole thing. The GCSEs aren’t working so let’s replace the whole thing. No wonder teachers live in fear. If something goes wrong, things are replaced and they are rarely adapted. We should be knocking off the edges of things or using ‘Marginal Gains’ rather than bin it and start again. Education ministers have to take some responsibility. Each minister wants to make their mark, so they will want to do something different. Often, this means binning an idea that the previous government created. Go to a teachmeet as they will help you knock off some of the edges in your teaching. In fact, who came up with the name of teachmeet? It is so lifeless and dull? Why not an ‘ideas factory’? Or a ‘symposium’? Or the teacher ‘self-help group’?  Or ‘escape from my school for a bit session’? Or even a ‘knocking shop’? Maybe not the last one.  I will just call them problem solvers!  
I will post my presentation later today.
Once again, I big thank you to everyone involved in yesterday's teachmeet and thank you to Andy and Kathy for the photos.  
Thanks for reading,

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