A New Horizon for Teachers


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How can we encourage all teachers to speak at professional development events?

In one week, I take part in TMLondonBoat – a different kind of TeachMeet – as part of the TMLondon circuit.

We’ve even had one on a London bus!

Stealing the limelight?

Over the past 10 years, we have seen TeachMeets spread across the UK like wildfire! I’ve taken part in plenty and have organised just as many behind the scenes; designed to bring teachers together to share classroom practise. However, more and more, I have questioned the same faces and voices – including myself – who are always stealing the limelight, speaking and sharing idea, alongside an increasing demand for event-organisers; designed to offer keynotes and prizes to entice teachers to attend.

Of course there is nothing wrong with this. If educators want to give up their own time to share ideas, then why should they not have a platform to share content, using a fun and inspiring model for teacher development? However, do we really encourage a broad range of teachers, speaking at professional development events? This is something I have discussed before: do professional development events represent the student communities we teach?

This is not about the same people presenting at events, it’s about the mechanics of an event; to enable more teachers to be able to share.

With this in mind, I have been trying to kick-start an EdCamp model in the UK for at least two years with @HecticTeacher and @ICTEvangelist in support. Workload has the better of me and despite advertising once a year, I’ve failed to deliver and launch this improved format that I believe, needs to replace TeachMeets.

In this post, I explain how an EdCamp model works to encourage all those attending, to contribute. And how those organising TeachMeets can re-design how events are organised, so that a more diverse range of teachers can be heard.

A new horizon …

At TMLondonBoat on 14th July 2016, we want to provide a new horizon for every teacher to be able to have their voice heard. In order to do this, I have emailed the following information to the educators attending. In the example shared below, it offers ‘a model and style’ of event that makes it possible for everyone to be heard.

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Image: Shutterstock

In many ways, it is stripping TeachMeets back to their humble roots as @EwanMcIntosh had first intended in Scotland, May 2006.

13 Rules:

  1.  There will be no product placements or prizes compared to your usual TeachMeet.
  2. Everything is organised for love and designed freely by a small group of educators; attendees are encouraged to be patient and arrive with the expectation of good company and a great atmosphere to discuss pedagogy and classroom practise. There will be nothing polished and the event will be informal …
  3. We will use the EdCamp model that is evolving across the US. This means the evening will evolve using the following format and in-keeping with EdCamps, the programme is organised on the night – at the beginning – by you!
  4. There will be two areas at the venue. One for relaxing and enjoying the event; socialising etc. The other for speaking.
  5. There are always requests for people to present, but there is ‘no sage on the stage’ as it were … The floor is open for anyone and everyone.
  6. On arrival, you will be handed a post-it note or a postcard. On this we ask (voluntary) that you pose a question, or raise a topic whilst you enjoy the venue and refreshments.
  7. As the event starts, the organisers will spend a short period of time (10-15 minutes) sifting through the questions into a set of themes; for example: ed-tech, leadership, teaching and learning, research, SEND, policy, politics and so on.
  8. Each of the themes will then be divided into a timetable and organised into small sessions and hubs.
  9. Each session will be hosted by two hosts. One who will pose the question and invite the original questioner to kick-off proceedings. The other host will chair the group to ensure a ‘hands-up’ order of discussion. The person who posed the question in the first place, will be asked to explain context and have 3-5 minutes to deliver their argument, discussion or conundrum – whatever it may be.
  10. For the remainder of the allocated time, people are free to ‘chip-in’ with thoughts and questions to keep the debate alive – for the love of education and joy of discussing ideas – but on ‘the nod’ of the host/session chair. We expect 10 minutes per session.
  11. One person cannot dominate and there is no expected outcome or finale to each of the debates. If the debate dies, then so be it. People can move to other parts of the event.
  12. There will be several hubs taking place, so people will also be free to move in-between hubs and discussions. We would obviously ask that you choose your hub carefully and avoid ‘flirting with groups’.
  13. Rule 13 > the only thing that we ask, is that you do not breach rule 13. Those who want to discuss issues being posed, should be free to do so. If the hub evolves into something that is not for you, we ask that you a) do not steer the debate away from the issue and/or b) move to another (hub) area of discussion or enjoy the venue with those who are socialising!

I do hope that sharing this format here, will be a new horizon for all teachers to speak freely …

I will report back at our own event next week.

Why not give it a try the next time you organise a TeachMeet?

TT.

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