Last year, I enjoyed Teach Meet Torquay, and so I jumped at the opportunity to attend #TMDevon. TeachMeets are a fairly recent development in the CPD landscape. They take different forms, but have a few common features. Usually funded by sponsorship from educational companies, they are free to attend and feature a range of classroom teachers sharing their practice. They are held in an evening, or occasionally at a weekend. So, what are the pros and cons of this type of event?
- A TeachMeet offers a rare chance to hear from other teachers from other schools about real practice in real classrooms. The two I have attended have also offered the almost unheard of opportunity to hear from teachers who teach in a completely different phase. I have been a primary teacher for, let’s just say, quite a long time, and I can count on the nails of one finger the opportunities I have had to work with secondary colleagues in that time. As well as being fascinating, both times I have taken away from those secondary colleagues ideas that I was able to use immediately. As in, the next day (thank you @incathecat).
- All of the talks are time-limited and so you get a lot of ideas in a short time.
- They are free. Well, not entirely free (see below), but you don’t need to part with any actual money, and neither does your school. For supply teachers, or anyone who cannot access additional CPD via their school, they are a great way of getting some quality CPD, and networking too.
- I have heard the argument put (very eloquently, I might add) that schools should be providing and paying for CPD and teachers shouldn’t have to give up their own time to attend. From a wellbeing point of view I am very sympathetic to this, and of course for staff with other responsibilities, attending an event that ends at 8pm, or indeed takes place on a Saturday, can be impossible. One answer to this is for schools to give time in lieu, perhaps by cancelling a staff meeting (or two!) or using the TeachMeet as a twilight session.
- Its great strength, giving an open platform to teachers, could also be its great weakness, in that there is no guarantee of quality. In my experience this is not an issue at all. It is no small undertaking to agree to present to an audience of your peers and all the presenters have been well prepared, engaging and passionate.
- There’s no such thing as a free early evening fork buffet. While there might be no charge for the event, there is no doubt that educational companies see TeachMeets as a good way to market directly to teachers. We all love a goody bag, and who wouldn’t want to win a nifty bit of kit or a nice dinner? But the price of that, of course, is allowing educational companies to “buy” access to the teachers there, whether that’s with a branded pen or portable visualiser. The truth is that educational companies have to sell their wares somehow! My personal feeling, based on the prizes I have seen, is that these companies are paying quite a high price for access to a relatively small audience, and we may see the value of prizes decrease in the future. I hold my hands up here and admit to having provided Schoolwell flyers to a number of TeachMeets and similar events. At this event, prize winners went home with new tech, new books, and in the case of @Exe_Head – dinner for two which he won with this short and sweet tweet.
I didn't come here to go home without a prize #TMDevon
— Roy Souter (@Exe_Head) March 23, 2017
So, apart from the freebies, what was on offer at #TMDevon? Here is a rundown of the presenters and their topics. (You can scroll down to the YouTube video of the event at the end of the page. Approximate start times for each presentation are given).
- Dr Megan Crawford – @DrMeganCrawford opened proceedings with a thought provoking presentation on action research, (I hope my inadvertent video bombing didn’t spoil the livestream- thankfully it’s been edited out of the YouTube video.) and a call to consider pursuing it within our own classrooms. I have had the pleasure of hearing Megan speak before at a @WomenEd event and she provided a great start to the TeachMeet. (0:15:00)
- Paul Moss – @edmerger shared some great ideas for mini-plenaries, including (a favourite at the break) asking students why they had been asked to do an activity. (0:30:30)
- Kelda Richards – @ElKel99 gave a superb session, sharing iMovie hacks (yes, other video editing programmes are availableJ) which were easy and accessible. I hear she will be running a session at creating video content at Moving on Education @MovingOnEd at Isca Academy on June 24th. (0:36:55)
- Claire Hadfield – @literatelady and Ben Dunford – @MrDunford from @swttexeter spoke about the challenges of teacher recruitment and how it is being addressed in a number of creative ways, including advertising on social media and developing a TA to Teacher route. (0:53:00)
- Amber Hughes then had us all drawing before she gave us some great and innovative strategies for tackling fear of failure. (1:05:40)
- Simon Wing – @mrwing_ict spoke about @EDpuzzle and how it can be used for flipped learning in the primary classroom. This programme allows you to add your own voiceovers and questions to videos for your students to use at home. (1:44:25)
- Robin Chu of @CoachBrightUK talked about their peer coaching programme at Isca and the impact it is having on raising expectations and attainment. (1:52:30)
- Maria Freestone – @incathecat rounded off the event with some super helpful strategies and activities for improving memory and auditory processing. (2:04:00)
There really was a wide variety, with something for everyone. If you see a TeachMeet near you, I urge you to get involved, perhaps even as a presenter. I cannot close this blog without a shoutout for @Gary_S_King and the #TMDevon team who did a superb job of organising and hosting. Look forward to seeing you all again at Moving on Exeter.