TeachMeets, as you may probably know, are gatherings of teachers, hosted by a teacher, where each attendee has the chance to present a short, sharp presentation to the group and thus start a conversation about what we do.

Often presentations are unexpectedly thought-provoking, say an English teacher presenting on a way to use a web 2.0 tool to which a Maths teacher might think hmm.. I could use that in another way. This happens more often than could be put down to coincidence – clearly it’s a core feature.

Often presentations are inspiring. Several people walk away with that buzz you get after doing something you really love and being able to share it with others. Presentations including @cpaterso ‘s Stop Marking are often quoted as pivotal moments in the professional learning of teachmeeters. And it only went for 7 minutes!

I always say that a teachmeet has been worth it if you can take away at least one of three things: a new idea for the classroom, a new colleague to share with, or a bit of inspiration. Most people get all three.

What happened this year is that a crazy person (me) had the idea that we should have four big teachmeets, focused loosely on each of the four big Australian Curriculum (AC) subjects – English, Maths, Science and History – which are to roll out in NSW in 2014. This would achieve two aims:

1) get teachers connected so we aren’t reinventing wheels on an industrial scale across the state and the country, and

2) draw in people who wouldn’t usually come to a teachmeet from those subject areas, seducing them with the idea that the presentations will be highly relevant to them (thus hopefully proving to them that teachmeets on a smaller, more diverse level would also be worth going to or hosting)

Thus @aliceleung and I organised The Science of Learning (TM Science) at Taronga Zoo, @cpaterso and I took to the State Library NSW for the Learning Revolution (TM History), @stephyadan @wanstad73 and @markliddel organised a highly engaging – and that’s saying something coming from me – Maths teachmeet called Angles of Learning at the PowerHouse Museum.

Just last night, along with @7mrsjames @whartonag @cpaterso @karla0_dtn @henriettami @leannecameron @yasodaiselva @andrea_stringer and our wonderful presenters, we managed to take over three parts of the Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Theatre, Bar and the Loft (all located in Pier 4 on Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay).

Not a bad place for a teachmeet - the view from the Balcony space at TM at the Wharf #tmeng
Not a bad place for a teachmeet – the view from the Balcony space at TM at the Wharf #tmeng

It was a tremendous evening of learning, sharing and growing. @aitsl were on site conducting a site visit with Prof Brian Caldwall seeming quite impressed at the rollup – about 200 teachers on a Friday night! – and the nature of the event. @Social_Ventures Australia were conducting vox pops with teachers in the early stages of their careers and who teach at disadvantaged schools, to ascertain ways to better help those communities. @Capitan_Typo who runs the TER Podcast managed to record some talks and interview some keen teachmeeters. It was quite a busy night!

Pre-service teachers chatted to Deans, English teachers chatted to History teachers (perhaps without knowing it), public school teachers spoke to non-government school teachers, people with four degrees spoke to people with one. None of that mattered last night – and it shouldn’t matter as much as it does. With forums like teachmeets, we can cast off some of our day-to-day baggage and just share good ideas.

Not only that, but we had visitors from Canberra, Bendigo and even #tmwa (that’s right, it’s gone to Western Australia!) – we had about 12 people walk in who hadn’t registered, and plenty of people apologising via email for not being able to come. Clearly this was an event people wanted to be a part of! It helped that we had a free drink for everyone when they arrived – kindly supplied by my super fund @NGSSuper – that is a group, and especially Anthony their CEO, who are keen to support teachers but not to intrude on what we do. That is very much appreciated.

Please read the storify of #tmeng here “TeachMeet at the Wharf #tmeng” http://sfy.co/gUur

Getting teachers together at TM Wharf - the Loft space required a walk through the STC props storage area! Awesome!
Getting teachers together at TM Wharf – the Loft space required a walk through the STC props storage area! Awesome!

According to my conversations during and after each of the big four teachmeets, this model of professional learning has the potential to become an essential part of the landscape of opportunities available to teachers. It appeals to different people for different reasons, is flexible and forms a new personality based on that of the host in charge, can be short and sweet or extensive and multi-spaced (such as #tmeng) but the essentials are:

1. Keep it free for attendees
2. Keep it free of commercial entities who seek to manipulate the event for their own purposes
3. Keep it fun, quick and interactive
4. It has to be by teachers and for teachers

With teachmeets going from strength to strength in many parts of Australia, the key issue is how to keep it local, informal, and by teachers for teachers, when it is growing in popularity so quickly? It’s up to all of us to keep it that way. We now have legitimacy in the eyes of many key organisations and individuals. We don’t have to kowtow to anyone.

Bring on the professional learning revolution.

If a teacher wants to host a teachmeet, they just need to go to http://www.teachmeet.net or contact one of the previous hosts. We’re always happy to help start another one.

For 2014, my crazy idea is a series of national teachmeets, one city starting at 9am…rolling through each city on the hour… all live streamed. Might have to lean on our buddies at @aitsl for help on this one.

For a bit further on… perhaps a #tmglobal where teachers from around the world can share their ideas in another rolling series of teachmeets according to timezones. First stop New Zealand….

Please get involved – we all have something to learn and we all have something to share.