The teach meet concept, which started in a pub in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2005 has spread pretty much around the world in only a few short years. The first teach meet (I wasn’t at that one…but I was at the second and subsequent ones) consisted of four or five colleagues sharing ideas, and quickly developed into the format we know today from the ‘official’ wiki.
- 7-minute presentations on classroom experience or tools used
- 3-minute nano-presentations on brief ideas or useful websites/tools
- Round table discussions on agreed subjects recorded and published in some way
- No sales pitches (apart from a nod to the sponsors and maybe a very short spot)
- Absolutely NO PowerPoint presentations.
- Amusing and witty MC not afraid to stop folks who’ve reached their time limit.
Now the venue was always less important than the ‘unconference’ ethos. Teach-meet was an antidote in many ways, to the sterile and un-engaging CPD delivered to teachers rather than involving them. Teach-meets usually (and preferably) take place away from schools, colleges or other formal institutions. This was a deliberate attempt to separate from establishment or organised CPD ).
And, it worked. Sponsors quickly saw the value of associating with the concept and therefore a venue was usually found, equipment sourced from participants, and drinks and nibbles purchased. The events were usually followed by an even less formal Teach-eat in a local restaurant or pub where the discussions continued far into the night…The concept quickly spread out across the UK from its birthplace in Scotland, and then was exported worldwide. It probably reached its zenith at the now-legendary Islay unconference in 2009. You can read about this event, Education 2020 here and here.
However, recently, there’s been a shift away from some of these guiding principles. Some teach-meets are now scheduled as in-school activities at the end of the school day, and in school itself. The original idea of 7 minute presentations has been axed in favour of shorter 3 minute shots. I think this in itself is a bad move as the 7 minute slot allowed you to cover a something in a little detail. 3 minutes leads to some shallowness at times. There needs to be a balance of sound bites and deeper experience re-telling.
The shift to using teach-meet as a formalised CPD offering held in a school in my view defeats the original ethos of independence and disestablishmentarianism.(!).
Whilst it’s great to see the format changed and adapted, I’m uncomfortable with this shift towards incorporation into something which is delivered to teachers, instead of being crowd sourced *from* them. Even if it’s only five folks in a pub using a laptop to share ideas, it is in my view, better than a shift to adoption by a hierarchy, and subsumation into that hierarchy.
Could we get back to the original idea, and replicate it in SA? I live in Cape Town, and would love to attend a teach-meet like this somewhere in the area. Is there the appetite from Mother City teachers and educators (and the surrounding environs, of course) for a back to basics teach-meet?
Written by Jaye Richards-Hill (@jayerhill)