One of the things I set out to do when I took on the role of Director of ICT and eLearning at my school, was to find ways for our staff to share what’s happening in their classrooms. Despite the fact that we often are working in environments with large numbers of staff working within very close proximity of one another, teaching can be an isolated and sometimes lonely profession. Very often, we’re unaware of what is happening in peoples’ classrooms and it’s difficult to find moments where we can get together en masse to share.
In our meeting schedule, we scheduled a Teachmeet as our last staff meeting for the term. I love the idea of Teachmeets, but I’ve yet to attend one. They are informal gatherings of teachers where strategies, new approaches etc are shared and most of them take place on weekends in locations close to the city. I find it really difficult to get to them given the demands of family life and the sheer fact that I’m pretty tired from the working week and need the weekend to recuperate (and do the washing, vacuum the floors etc etc). Last year, when I attended ISTE in San Diego, one of my Australian friends shared how they have Teachmeets with their staff so I thought this would be something we could replicate to bring people together and help to build our professional learning community.
I’ve been very fortunate to have fifteen teachers from across the school volunteer (with a bit of coaxing!) to be eLearning coaches, and seven of them, along with myself, agreed to run a 7 minute information sharing session about something they’re doing. We ended up with a line up that included the following:
Infographics and how to use and create them
iPad/iPhone apps and their use in a Maths classroom
Using Edmodo as a virtual learning platform for your class
Backing up data – what are the options
Flipping your classroom and using a blog to share information (two teachers demonstrated what they’re doing using these methods)
Using Skype to connect with other classrooms and Ning as a platform for teacher resource sharing
Scootle and how to use it to support Australian Curriculum implementation
In my email to staff about the event, I said the following:
There’s a requirement that this will be a fun event, so bring along your good humour, great catching skills and supportive smiles as your peers share their practice with you.
The great catching skills were needed for the lolly throws that took place between presentations, and the supportive smiles were absolutely necessary to help staff present in front of their peers. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather address an audience of 200 strangers than I would the people I work with on a daily basis. I think we were all feeling a degree of stress about the afternoon, but it was unfounded. Our peers were very supportive and got into the spirit of the afternoon. Lollies were caught, laughter was shared, music was played in between presentations and sessions provoked discourse between participants.
The feedback from the Teachmeet has been fabulous. In the hours after I received emails from staff saying how much they’d enjoyed the meeting and that it was fun and engaging. This continued throughout the week when people approached me saying how much they’d taken from it and how the format was perfect for a positive end of term meeting celebrating what’s happening in the school. Our eLeaning coaches who presented have been approached by staff who want to know more about what they’re doing and want opportunities to learn from them.
Sometimes we neglect to explore the expertise that exists within our own staff. We send people out to expensive external professional development where they hear from others when it’s quite possible similar expertise is being played out in classrooms next door to them. Becoming a professional learning community within the walls of your school means finding opportunities like internal Teachmeets where people can discover the experts among them, and build the rapport and professional dialogue with peers that can become a model for others to follow.
Schedule an internal Teachmeet with your staff next term – I don’t think you’ll regret it. They’re becoming a permanent fixture in our school calendar!