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Happy Birthday, TeachMeet!

Over the course of a decade, this grassroots movement has grown from being a few men in a pub to a global source of collaborative CPD. Here, some past TeachMeet participants share their fondest memories...

  • Happy Birthday, TeachMeet!

Three online teacher friends met, face to face, for the first time at a conference in 2005. They all agreed to get together again in a less formal setting and talk about what they had been up to in their classrooms. The following year, with pints in hand, the trio took part in what was to be the very first TeachMeet.

Based on a ‘show and tell’ format, TeachMeet takes traditional CPD and turns it on its head. All attendees are invited to present on the day, with speakers chosen by random selection. Those who speak are encouraged to base their presentation on something they have been doing in their school or classroom, or that they have been personally researching or developing.

Presentations are kept short and dynamic, in either 7-minute ‘micro’ form or 2-minute ‘nano’ form.

In its 10-year history, TeachMeet has witnessed a huge amount of growth. Its events now take place across the globe, with some focusing on specialist subject matter, and there have even been Student TeachMeets that encourage pupils to adopt the same sharing process.

Here, to celebrate the movement᾿s anniversary, we hear from one of the founders, John Johnston, and from other teachers around the world about what TeachMeet has done for them…

“It boils down to the idea of doing it for ourselves”

John Johnston – Glasgow
The Jolly Judge, 2006

About 10 years ago I went along to The ScotEduBlogger Meet-up that kicked off the TeachMeet movement. It seemed like something completely different, and it chimed with ideas that I was just starting to think about, and that I’ve been thinking about ever since.

To me, TeachMeet had some interesting components. It was a reaction against conference sessions and keynotes where a guru talked through a slide deck for an hour. The idea was that everyone who turned up was willing to talk for two or seven minutes if their name came out of the picker.

There were no keynoters, no one was guaranteed a spot and no one came first. The spirit, in my opinion, is that you don’t read your way through a sets of slides. The atmosphere was relaxed, with a few drinks and nibbles, and if you weren’t interested in the current speaker, you were free to go off and have a chat.

Led by Ewan McIntosh, these ideas were then developed and influenced by BarCamp. The first few events felt incredibly exciting. We talked like maniacs, posted photos, wrote blogs posts.

I felt the events echoed the way blogging was developing. People expressing their own views, organising themselves from the bottom up, without hierarchy. For me, it’s mixed with ideas of sharing, creative commons, openness and fun.

If I was to condense what I have gained from TeachMeet, it would boil down to the idea of doing it for ourselves, owning our own spaces and sharing freely.

“I started TeachMeet in Malaysia”

– Ian Pittman, The International School at ParkCity, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
BETT 2009

I travelled 6,600 miles to attend BETT, but it was TeachMeet that inspired me the most. It was amazing fun, and I came away having learnt so much more than I could have anticipated. I was lucky to have met @helikon, @lisibo, and @digitalmaverick, amongst others at the event. We ate pizza. We shared. I even won a prize from @BrainPOP_UK in the raffle.

Based on my experience, I started TeachMeetKL in Malaysia, which is believed to be the first TeachMeet to ever take place in South East Asia. Since then it has been running regularly, with around 70 teachers from many international schools taking part.

They often tell me it’s the best PD they’ve ever had. It really works. Thank you, TeachMeet.

“I ended by announcing my son was on the way”

– Ian Addison, Riders Junior School, Havant
TeachMeet BETT 2010

I had never been to a TeachMeet before, but had seen some people sharing videos in an online version. As I was attending BETT, I thought I would sign up to present at the TeachMeet there – I didn’t know what to expect and the room was packed with around 300 people. My name came out first.

I got up, did my thing, got a few laughs and sat back down. I immediately turned to a colleague and asked why we hadn’t done this in our area yet. So a few months later, we set up the first TeachMeet Hampshire and 100 people turned up – it was a great success. I helped to organise the TeachMeet at BETT the following year, and have assisted on a number of them since.

The biggest moment for me was 2015. I had a presentation on Skitch, a tool that lets you annotate photographs. With Dawn Hallybone’s help and approval, I ended with a photo of an ultrasound scan and the announcement that my son was on his way. It felt like the perfect moment to do it. Among the 400 people in the crowd were many dear friends who I have met through Twitter, and I couldn’t have shared it with a better bunch of people.

“I jumped right in and shared at my first TeachMeet ever”

– Jen Deyenberg, Wild Rose School Division, Rocky Mountain House, Canada
TeachMeet SLF 2010

Having moved two weeks prior from Canada, I was new to Scotland, but I wanted to connect with other teachers and bring some Canadian teaching fun to my new home. I jumped right in and shared at my first TeachMeet ever. I talked about geocaching for seven minutes and was immediately supported by the local teachers.

Afterwards, TeachEat was a fantastic time to really get to know people who are still friends to this day, even though I’ve moved back to Canada. It was a conversation I needed – to learn more about Scottish schools, the curriculum and to be able to talk the talk at an interview.

I attended more TeachMeets that took me to places I would have never found otherwise, including a fantastic pub night in Inverness and an amazing weekend in Ayr. The next year I hosted TeachMeetSLF – and loved it.

TeachMeets opened the door to me teaching in Scotland. I’m not sure I ever would have made it without the connections or friends I made. I’ve gone on to work with Alberta Education and I’m now a director of a school authority.

“The enthusiasm is infectious”

– Celia Coffa, Computer Science Education Research Group at the University of Adelaide
TeachMeet Melbourne 2011

During an online conference in 2011, I was introduced to the TeachMeet idea by Henrietta Miller who talked about TeachMeet Sydney. At that stage, they didn’t exist in Melbourne, but following a chat between three participants, including myself, we created the first event to be based there.

The first highlight was meeting some of my online network contacts face to face. Our Melbourne style of TeachMeet is uncomplicated, organic, flexible and wonderful. From simple gatherings of six people all the way to events with 100 or more attendees, each one is the sum of the participants.

Above all, the major highlight is the personal connections I have made. I have numerous examples where conversations started at a TeachMeet have morphed into amazing collaborations that have directly benefited my school and students. That network of peers is my best asset as a teacher.

The enthusiasm is infectious, and I will continue to evangelise for teachers sharing their passions, skills, trials and errors in this wonderful format of professional learning.

“I have seen teachers develop entire units on the spot”

– Brian McClain, public school teacher, Tallahassee, Florida, USA
TeachMeet Tallahassee 2014

The actualisation of an independent, teacher-run professional development session has propelled me through these dark times of public education in the States. I always want to hear from experts in other areas of the field, so what I find most valuable is being inspired by the passion and compassion of actively practising teachers – not from people with limited experiences – who have self-selected their way out of the classroom.

What I find most effective is the immediacy of the follow-up conversations that the short-presentation format provides. I have seen and heard teachers collegiately develop one-day lessons and entire units on the spot in 10-minute conversations just prior to leaving the session.

“I had to wing it a bit”

– Tim Head, Chuter Ede Primary School, Balderton
TeachMeet BETT 2016

After lurking and reading Twitter conversations, I decided to jump into the TeachMeet world and stop being such a hermit. It was at TeachMeet BETT 2016 that I first threw my name into the hat of speakers, and when the fruit machine picked it out I didn’t know whether to run and hide or to stand up and be counted. Thankfully, I opted for the latter.

I had to wing it a bit, as my slides wouldn’t work on the computer. After that it’s all a bit of a blur, I don’t remember much about what I said.

On the night, I listened to some truly excellent educators. I was touched by Natalie Scott’s presentation about her school for refugees in Dunkirk, I laughed with Stephen Lockyer as he attempted to log in his account, and witnessed Drew Buddie in an Iron Man costume. What can I say, other than I can’t wait for the next one. Thank you to all who thought up the idea of TeachMeet!

To mark the anniversary celebrations, the TeachMeet 10th Birthday book, compiling various individuals’ experiences with the movement, will be released for free in the run-up to Christmas There is still time to add your own TeachMeet stories – for more details, head here.

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