Jeanette James (@7mrsjames), Cameron Paterson (@cpaterso), Celia Coffa (@ccoffa) and I attended a meeting in Melbourne with AITSL – the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership – on Friday to discuss the possibility of a connection between AITSL and TeachMeets. In relation to TeachMeets, it is important to investigate many avenues to grow and sustain what we do. The important thing is not to change the fundamentals of free, organic professional learning run by teachers and for teachers.
The AITSL team were open, friendly and are clearly passionate about enacting the principles established by the Melbourne Declaration on the Educational Goals for Young People (scroll down when the new window opens) and recent developments in the implementation of the Australian Curriculum. Their areas of responsibility can be found on their website and I myself have participated in their Leading Curriculum Change program. If you are looking for a way to implement change in your school and need a framework to plan and produce that change, check it out. It was great to put faces to the blank images we often associate with bureaucrats. Cam has offered his view on this here. Happily, some of them knew generally what TeachMeets were – having stalked a bit as one does these days before meeting someone for the first time – and Keren Caple even had visited a TeachMeet in Newcastle!
The meeting was amiable and we sought to find common ground in some areas. They seemed impressed at what TeachMeets have been able to accomplish since March 2011 and didn’t seem to want to impress any kind of branding or officiality from their end. More discussions will need to take place, but I’m confident that TeachMeets will continue to thrive even without the intervention of official bodies and associations. In fact, I’m still mulling over whether TeachMeets would be better off avoiding all kinds of overarching partnerships or support from ‘the establishment’ since our organic nature what sets us apart from that frothing ocean of PD available to teachers – for a price.
In seeking to support the growth of TeachMeet, everyone involved needs to feel part of the community of practice. TeachMeets are not normal PD to which one can just rock up and not be somehow effected. I hope that TeachMeets might facilitate the sharing of inspiration and energy as much as the sharing of information and strategies. We will grow together, despite disagreements over what TeachMeets should look like (I argue every host can do what they like so long as the experience for attendees is free, informal and valuable) or how they should be organised in Australia. As Cam stated in his blog post linked to above, “teaching is a private profession that is becoming public.” Teaching is no longer something done in a cave but in a fish bowl – and we should work towards teachers having the language, skills and courage to be constantly self-reflective, self-motivated and collaborative as part of their daily practice.
I have grown in my appreciation for relevant and engaged bodies like AITSL trying to connect institutionalised principles, process and procedures. However, I have grown even more appreciative of the inspirational energy and creative intelligence of my TeachMeet buddies. Celia, JJ and Cam’s perspectives shone light into areas I hadn’t even looked and offered sage and challenging advice that are of constant benefit to the TeachMeet movement. I consider them great educators, and would be so happy if my future children could have a classroom experience with them.
So, the discussion will continue and no concrete agreements may ever materialise but I believe it’s necessary for those involved in TeachMeet to keep eyes and ears open for opportunities, discuss and debate about the benefits and possible detriments of such opportunities (we actually did a SWOT analysis at AITSL!) and choose their future. Not let it wash over them and feel drowned by parochialism or uncertainty. Helping to run TeachMeets is certainly a learning curve in itself.