AND Advocate Kerri Sellens organised her first ever Teachmeet last year - read how she found the experience
14 February 2017
Picture credit: Roger Brown
Organising my first Teachmeet in November last year was a fantastic learning experience for me. It wasn’t stressful or difficult, and I found I could organise it alongside my full-time teaching position through working on it whenever I had five minutes to spare. I think what helped harness this attitude was that the Teachmeet was dedicated to a subject I am passionate about teaching; Art & Design. Getting a room full of teachers with the same outlook and drive, sharing best practice, was a very exciting prospect.
Once you have decided upon a focus area for your Teachmeet, the next step is to secure a venue and date. I’ve been a member of the education advisory panel for The Photographers Gallery for a few years, so contacted them to see if I would be able to use a space there for the event. Ideally, I wanted a central venue to make it easier for people to get to from all over London. Holding the Teachmeet in a cultural venue also added another positive element to the event as we were surrounded by art, photography and ideas - all of which directly related to what teachers were discussing. The education team were more than happy to support the Teachmeet, and were really interested to hear what teachers had to share. It became a very collaborative process.
For my Teachmeet, The Photographers Gallery took care of the ticketing through their website, but if you don’t have that option then Eventbrite is a great site to use. You need to decide on how many people your venue can hold comfortably, and provide a link for people to be able to sign up to present if they want to. I used Google Formsto make a simple sign up sheet, which worked really well; the site sending me an email notification when someone completed the form.
Everybody spoke for about five minutes, which kept the pace of the evening fast moving and wasn’t too daunting for the people presenting. Teachers spoke about something that worked well for them in their setting. It all felt very informal and friendly, and in just a couple of hours I learned a lot from my primary and secondary school colleagues. Subjects included assessment, sketchbooks, cross-curricular learning, collaboration, enrichment… all really interesting, especially hearing from teachers of all phases. Susan Coles from the NSEAD (who was the person who first suggested I organise an Art & Design Teachmeet) provided a video presentation, as she doesn’t live in London. So, even if people are not local, it is still possible to be involved.
Having a keynote speaker is another option too. I did send a little email on the off chance to Ken Robinson, Michael Craig-Martin and Bob and Roberta Smith, but they couldn’t make it unfortunately!
Sponsorship isn’t essential for a Teachmeet, but it does make the event more pleasurable for the attendees. My Teachmeet was on a Thursday evening, so teachers arrived after a day of teaching on a school night. Sponsorship from The London Leadership Strategy, who are very supportive of teacher-led CPD, allowed me to buy refreshments to recharge teachers, and help make the journey worthwhile. Further sponsorship was secured from Cass Art and Specialist Crafts. It was great to have art materials to hand that could be used back in school.
Use Twitter at your event to engage with a wider audience, and create a hashtag to let people join in the conversation.
I left the Teachmeet energised and inspired about the future possibilities of art and design education, and happy in the knowledge that there are teachers who are committed to collaboration and communication with colleagues. This peer CPD was incredibly powerful, and I’m really grateful to everyone who managed to attend.
One top tip if you are planning your own Teachmeet would be to overbook by about 25% on the tickets. Although my Teachmeet was fully booked quite early on, we should have released more tickets than we did, as a free event on a school night results in quite a few people not attending. This is a lesson learned for next year, as I am definitely keen to make the Art & Design Teachmeet an annual event.
Kerri Sellens is Art & Design and Design Technology Lead Teacher at Lansbury Lawrence Primary School, and is also part of our AND Advocates programme. Click here to find out more about her and the programme.