By Helen Wilson (and lots of other people)
On the afternoon of Friday 8 November, there was a whole new feeling in the hall at Beaumont School. We are used to preparing the hall for big events – chairs out, screen up, programmes at the ready and some staff and pupils on standby to meet and greet – but this was a dark, and very wet Friday (school events are never usually on a Friday), the event did not involve an audience of parents and did not have any pupils to sit back and watch or be proud of. We were hanging out a washing line with pegs, putting strange objects such as coat hangers, dominoes and uninflated balloons with attached luggage labels on chairs and preparing for our first TeachMeet. There was a palpable tension in the air as we really had no idea how the event would be received.
As the first few teachers from schools across Hertfordshire arrived, the Beaumont Teaching & Learning Team kept mouthing to each other “there are real people here – they have actually come!” and we realised that we had arranged something special.
Unusually for a school event, we were encouraging the audience to get out their phones and tweet throughout the evening and a live feed (#beaumontteachmeet) appeared on a screen. There was a buzz in the air and everyone was frantically asking questions, sharing ideas and making new friends and contacts.
I felt proud to be a teacher amongst these enthusiastic and skilled professionals and came away from the evening wondering in what other walk of life you find people giving up their time, for free, to develop the skills of a profession about which they are so passionate.
John Mitchell (@Jivespin), a History Teacher and Deputy Head of 6th Form, was one of the presenters at the event and wrote about the event on his own Teaching and Learning blog here. “The real value of the meeting was to meet with teachers from other schools who were like minded in wanting to find new ideas and improve their practice. This generous and positive atmosphere was fostered by the Beaumont School’s Teaching & Learning Team” – Thanks John, we are so pleased you enjoyed it.
What follows are thoughts and reflections of others who were there.
“What struck me was how many amazing teachers we have in the area. I’ll be using the plenary grids, google forms, pre-lesson learning (getting 6th formers to make the videos on key grammar points rather than me!), Passport and hopefully some of the ideas from the washing line (can’t wait for the update on all the ideas from there).” Laura
“The phrase I took from the keynote speaker was “No excuses, be legendary” which I thought was a good tag line for both staff and students. It might be a bit cheesy but reminded me that teaching is about the bigger picture of day to day and not just about observations and Ofsted! From the washing line I took a couple of good ideas using balloons: 1)For a plenary, students work in pairs and one has the balloon and attempts to blow it up. In the time it takes them, the other student has to talk about what they have learnt in the lesson and then they swap. 2) Balloons have clues inside them to help with a task or their learning and are stuck up around the room. At certain times in the lesson, a student is allowed to pop the balloon and read out the clue to the rest of the class. If only I could blow up balloons!” Sarah
“After visits to Poundland on a Sunday, numerous emails and planning meetings, the day finally arrived. After decking the hall with boughs of dominoes, playing cards and plastic coat hangers we awaited our guests. As real people were escorted to the hall by Year 8s clutching Beaumont brollies we were like a group of kids in a sweet shop. Bouncing around and tweeting like we have never tweeted before. During the evening I quickly evolved from sweetshop child to proud parent. As the Beaumont T&L team got up to host and present, I have to admit a tear came to my eye. This is what Beaumont is all about. Learning, Laughing and Loving what we do. Inspiring stuff.” Zoe
“I was particularly struck by the speaker (Ben Hayes) who talked about the work of John Hattie. If this is a scientific study (insofar as an examination of pedagogy can ever be scientific) then it is worth its weight in gold.” Graham
“ I was inspired from Laura’s presentation to read Mind-set by Carol S. Dweck. I am 10% through (as my kindle tells me) and already can’t put it down. I think it is very important to encourage students to have the mind-set that working hard achieves results and not to stick with a fixed mind-set of a label or test score given to them. This requires students to be resilient and have a go. Having this growth mind-set will inspire students to ‘be the best they can be’ even when they get a knock.” Fiona.
I really like the plenary grid shown by Sarah. I can see that it would work well with Sixth Form or perhaps as KS4 home learning – I like the idea that they can test each other’s understanding. Frances
“I came away with so many practical and useable ideas from the #beaumontteachmeet, as well as confidence in what I am actually already doing. Why reinvent the wheel when you can tweak something someone has already produced? Be a magpie! Twitter and blogs are really useful places to find resources you can adapt and make your own. I have already created a ‘Biology Brain’, where students monitor their progress during a lesson and try and fill their brains up – maybe just with key words or useful information. I’ve produced a ‘Think Tank’ for students to colour in and mark off their progress throughout the lesson. I will also definitely look at using Google forms as a way of monitoring progress quickly and easily without the monotonous marking of multiple choice questions. Myself, Helen and Fiona in science are also keen to adapt the ‘Passport’ for our classes, to encourage sixth formers to take it upon themselves to go to lectures at University, do background reading and share current news articles.” Sarah
“An inspiring and enjoyable evening. I found Sarah’s presentation really useful and have used learning grids in my year 11 lesson this morning for revision. The key note speaker was really engaging and it was comforting to hear that his schools ethos of creating a learning culture was similar to the work we are doing with skills for success.” Nat
So, what do you think? Should we do it all again? Well we will all need to recover first. But I’d like to think that it was our FIRST TeachMeet, rather than a stand alone event. Let us know if you would be interested and if you have an idea to share – 3 minutes to present – go on, have a go!