Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Collaborate & Learn Together.

Five and a half years ago I started this blog & if I think back as to why, it was mainly because I started to follow other blogs around 6 months earlier and the more I followed them and interacted with those bloggers, the more I started to think 'I do that too' and to realise that others might actually be interested in hearing about my practice. I was still surprised by how many people did begin to follow the blog and interact with me on a regular basis. I am the first to admit, I sometimes speak before really thinking, so a blog is good for this as I have to mull over my thoughts before blabbing them out into a post!!
Teachers in general are a secretive lot, in the main they do not play well with others, are terrible at sharing and prefer to teach behind closed doors. I say in general, as there is a growing movement within teaching that is very open to sharing and collaborating with each other, learning from each other and constantly questioning their own practice and striving to provide the best possible educational experience for those in their care.
I spent a weekend at a conference with two such teachers in 2012, one from primary and one from secondary and I was overwhelmed by their enthusiasm and passion for their jobs, new technology and for embracing the opportunity to learn from others around the world. The best step I took was to follow these two on Twitter as it opened a whole new network for me, or a Professional Learning Network (PLN) to give it the 'correct' term. It also introduced me to the wonderful world of #niedchat and so I found myself sitting in a lecture theatre in a local teacher training college on a Friday evening in October, surrounded by other teachers, attending my first #TeachMeet. @Daithi and @MrMalcontent had managed to persuade me to put my name into the hat as a presenter that evening, with the assurance that as there were over 30 presenters in the hat it was unlikely I'd be picked out. Mmmm how foolish of me to listen to those two, as lo and behold my name came out on second! The idea of #TeachMeet is that teachers sign up to give a presentation of either 2 or 7 minutes to colleagues, names are picked at random by an electronic rickety wheel! There are only a handful of people involved in organising these events and yet it is always run very professionally. 
As a nursery teacher, it was quite incredible to have an audience not made up of just other nursery teachers but colleagues from primary and secondary but the best thing about #TeachMeet is that it's about appreciating what others are doing not necessarily being always able to transfer what you learn to your own practice. So there were presentations on the flipped classroom to apps for helping language acquisition to myself talking about getting outdoors with nursery children. It was the passion and enthusiasm that struck me, I am used to this within the nursery sector but it is not as common in primary or secondary. Over the past two and a half years I have attended other #TeachMeet events that happen every 6 months or so and it has been a privilege to listen to colleagues who are striving to find the best ways to engage with the pupils in front of them. Those who attend these events are those teachers who are chatting about work long after 3.00 and at weekends, who are willing to share documents and ideas, who genuinely care about each and every pupil and who are willing to go that extra mile. They are the teachers who are always seeking out new and innovative methods to help enhance their teaching and most importantly they are the teachers who don't ask 'What is in this for me?'
This summer funding was suddenly withdrawn from the only CPD opportunity that teachers/educators  in N.Ireland have had in the past few years - the 3 day summer school from RTU. Most teachers heard the news and just accepted it. But the group who help organise the #TeachMeet heard this news and through a series of tweets began to organise a one day CPD opportunity run by teachers for teachers. They called it niedcamp and managed in a few short weeks to organise a fantastic day of collaboration and learning for teachers. I was fortunate to get to present twice at this event, firstly for an hour to other early years colleagues and later for 7ish minutes to colleagues across all sectors at a #TeachMeet that was organised to close the day. Weirdly it was in exactly the same lecture theatre where I had had that first opportunity to present and again, it was interesting to present to teachers who were not just from nursery. The whole day was such fun and considering this was taking place on one of the hottest, sunniest days of the summer and the last week of most our holidays, the turn out of over 350 teachers was impressive.
In conclusion I would say that sharing about practice be it through blogging or a short presentation at a #TeachMeet, has been one of the best methods of self-evaluation for me. It has helped me to reflect on why I do things the way I do and encouraged me to challenge why I feel the way I do about outdoor play. But most importantly it has allowed me to surround myself with a supportive network of like-minded colleagues who help inspire me daily to strive to be the best teacher I can be. 

The next TeachMeet will be in the Guildhall in Derry on the 18th October 2015.


  1. Great blogpost, Kierna, totally encapsulates what the teachmeets and niedcamp are all about

    1. Thanks Amanda & your enthusiasm and passion are what makes them work so well.


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