And then I woke up. My final day in Oxford and I was quite sad to be leaving so soon, but excited to be going to my first TeachMeet of the #tmtouruk trip.

Wheeling, or rather dragging, my suitcase to the bus stop just up from Pickwick’s Guest House I settled on avoiding a tempting chance to take in even more history and instead funnel myself to the train station. Striking up a conversation with a fellow bus stop citizen, I found out that she was not only German (quirkily cool to meet a German on a suburban train in Oxfordshire) but that she was a professional bookbinder.

I resisted the urge of superlativity (“oh you rescue the thoughts of the past for future generations” blah blah) and instead reached into my vast vault of social interactions and said “cool mate!” Aussie pride. She was forgiving though and we had a great chat about the international nature of Oxford and no, despite a near overwhelming feeling of Britishness, I didn’t mention the war.

Whilst coasting along on the train, the countryside passed by with idle contentment. If I were a poet, I would probably mention dew drops on sun-touched hedgerows. To me, it just looked very green.

Alighting at Swindon (mind the gap),
I jumped on a local bus that wasn’t the 62 route to Cirencester but the 50-something that takes 62 minutes to get there. I’m not complaining. In fact, I got to see more Britain than if I was on the motorway. There were even some thatched roofs for me to gawk at – it’s one thing to teach kids about it but quite another to feel history reaching out and grabbing your mind.

We passed through shops, we passed through farms (not literally of course, although it would have given new meaning to the game ‘Chicken’), we nearly hit over a dozen cars driving down narrow roads. Well worth £3.60.

A highlight was passing through Cricklade. A Saxon town founded in the 9th century, Cricklade looked like a place to tickle my historical fancy. However, due to a timetable which suggested this bus was the first to pass through since about the founding of the town, I remained firmly planted on my seat to Cirencester.

My bags and I stepped from the bus and instantly it seemed my chin didn’t have a good view of the world because I was immediately forced to look up at the majestic bell tower of the Cirencester parish church. Probably neo-gothic (please someone more intelligent in architecture history correct me before someone important realises), I couldn’t help but appreciate the way people must have truly been in awe of their cathedrals and monuments to faith before the age of skyscrapers and space travel made us look down upon these beautiful structures.

Once my chin had had enough, I took a look around the marketplace (which, the next day, it actually turned in to) and made my way to The Fleece Hotel.

This. Place. Is. Beautiful. Do yourself a favour and if you area driving through the Cotswolds, stop off in Cirencester just to stay one night at this gorgeous boutique hotel. Probably the best sleep I have had so far this trip. In my feedback I said that it was like staying in a well-written novel.

However readers as you know I am not here to dawdle and enjoy history or comfy accommodation or any of that rubbish – I’m here for the betterment of TeachMeets (and a bit of individual PD too)! So that night I tapped all my orienteering knowledge from Year 7 camp and found the Watermoor C of E Primary school. Here, I am very happy to say, I had a fantastic Teachmeet and confirmed my belief that this was a worthwhile trip.

Though small, Jo Pearce (@JoPearce) and her brethren hosted a great first #tmcots, with attendees picking up ideas as soon as they walked into the vibrant and colourful rooms of Watermoor. Whilst chatting over fish n chips, we discussed many ideas, strategies, challenges and issues facing education today and so were almost reluctant to do actual ‘presentations’ but thought it best.

Twitter as a tool for connecting and supporting teachers was discussed at length, and it will be my mission on my return to school to get more of my colleagues on to Twitter. Most people reading this blog will probably already have a Twitter account, but if not please to dip your toe in. As Jo described, it’s like having a 24/7 staff room where everyone is sharing, debating, arguing and laughing about everything to do with education and life in general. You can join one conversation or several, or just listen in and save tidbits for later consumption. Give it a go, and if you need help you can always get in touch with a bunch of us Twits to help you along.

Quadblogging (google it) is a concept to help teachers make blogging a more valuable experience for their students by giving them a specific and very real audience to share their blogs with and enter into a comment-based dialogue over their ideas. If you have tried blogging and found kids are just as disengaged as handwriting something for you because it’s yet another written task that only you will see, Quadblogging may be for you.

From themed units with learning celebration days to my somewhat lame attempt to outline what we do in Sydney to promote and run TeachMeets, it was absolutely clear that my little maxim – we all have something to learn, we all have something to share – is absolutely true in both Australia and the United Kingdom alike.

Whilst there are differences between our systems, our governments and all those other things we have to push through to actually get to do what we love – teach – the fundamental connection between teacher and student is a human one, not bound by national borders, time zones or language.

And as Paul Kelly reminds us, from little things, big things grow, and with Jo at the helm, offering support to others to get TeachMeets going in the area, Gloucestershire teachers will reap the benefits.

Thanks so much to Jo and her mates at Watermoor, I had a great time and will seek to connect more often to lend whatever support I can to the sprouting of TeachMeets in the area.

Key learnings:

– Teachers are doing essentially the same job everywhere, just under different circumstances
– we can help each other to succeed if we just open our minds a bit
– see maxim above 😉
– always try and book a really a comfy bed at least once on a trip