Union members have for several years known the power of TeachMeet as an organic, fun, self sustaining movement of teacher professional learning in Australia that is led by teachers and for teachers.
Teachers have, of course, been gathering informally to chat about their practice since ancient times. However, it is a recent phenomenon that such gatherings have been held as a counter culture to the prevailing dominance of top down, expert heavy, spray and pray approaches to professional learning.
TeachMeets began in 2006 as an informal gathering in the Jolly Judge pub in Edinburgh, by a few keen teachers and even a keynote speaker from an edtech (education technology) conference that was too much selling and not enough learning.
Sharing ideas and thoughts in a collegial manner, with only enough rules to make sure everyone who wanted to be heard would be, led to a growing movement and spinoffs around the world.
Ewan McIntosh, one of the founders of these fledgling events is now – perhaps ironically – a world-travelling speaker and consultant at NoTosh, focusing on bringing design thinking approaches to all aspects of education.
TeachMeets are not about any one person. In Australia, I was lucky enough to hear about them at an ACEL Emerging Leaders conference and to pick up the ball with a few other keen beans in Sydney in 2011.
By March 2012, we had the opportunity to host a massive TeachMeet at the Australian Technology Park at Eveleigh with 300 people taking part on a rainy Friday evening.
It was simply a billboard for others to take on the challenge and since then, we estimate over 10,000 individual teachers have attended or hosted their own TeachMeets in pubs, classrooms, libraries, even zoos and the Sydney Opera House.
Every single time, a teacher led the event and the best ones are those where the MC almost instantly becomes invisible and is only there to make sure no one dominates. Sometimes we have had to block companies and other interests from attempting to demand airtime.
Sometimes we have partnered with great stakeholders who let the teachers do their thing and ask for little in return. Openness, transparency and honesty are critical to the success of TeachMeets, especially in a world where the truth is only a tweet away.
No one owns TeachMeet which means that it is up to teachers to take the responsibility to protect it as an organic community and movement. No company can claim it, no formal association can take control of it, no employer can dictate terms, not even the Union would think it has the rights to manage its future.
In this 10th anniversary of TeachMeets, we encourage you to take hold of your professional learning pathway and join in or host your own. There are few rules, and they’re there to make sure everyone gets the chance to tell their story if they want to.
It takes a village to raise a teacher, and the TeachMeet movement is a vibrant, thriving village of professional learning.
Search for TeachMeet Sydney in your browser to find what’s going on in your area and to get involved.
Matt Esterman Professional Officer