‘Act’- A mantra for C21 communities? #tmdebate

Last night a debate erupted on twitter around the future of TeachMeet under the hastag #tmdebate. This grassroots professional development and ideas sharing movement has so far been driven in a decentralised way, and this has allowed it to scale hugely. However, there seems to be significant feeling from some that issues are arising that might require a rethink of how the movement organises itself.

The debate ranged across a variety of topics, from the fact that many event organisers are putting themselves at risk of infringing tax rules, the effect of increasing involvement of corporate sponsors, and the drive to involve people outside of the twitter ‘echo chamber’. There were some calls to formalise the TeachMeet movement in the form of setting up a charity or social enterprise.

This morning, long time TeachMeet champion Tom Barrett joined the debate:

The problem is that with a debate that ranged through so many issues, often in a circular way due to people coming in and out, it is next to impossible to reach any kind of consensus. The movement is inherently informal, and I wonder if in trying to formalise any kind of consensus we are simply imposing ’20th century thinking’ onto the issue, as some accused those calling for formal control of the brand through charities or other bodies of doing.

So, without consensus, how does this move forward? What is the ’21st century thinking’ here? A number of times the ‘ScotEduBlog meetup’ that kicked off the movement was cited as some kind of template for the ‘ethos’ of TeachMeet. However, looking at this wiki I don’t see a lot of reflection or debate around values or consensus.

What I do see is a record of a group of people who felt a need for something and acted. They believed in it, it proved to be beneficial- so it grew. It is impossible to seek consensus or permission from a network as disparate as those involved in TeachMeets. The only way forward is to act. I have seen this this weekend with my work on the TeachMeet Facebook presence. Lots of people thought about harnessing the power of Facebook but, until now, no one acted. It is early days, but with 217 ‘Likes’ in two days people are supporting this as a useful development of the movement.

Do what you believe will be beneficial and if others share your belief it will grow. If they don’t it will sink. Consensus will come, but people will vote with their feet not their words- however useful it is to share their thoughts on the matter.

In these decentralised, informal learning communities we are developing, should ‘Act’ be our mantra for change?






8 responses to “‘Act’- A mantra for C21 communities? #tmdebate”

  1. Julia Skinner Avatar

    I’ve come reasonably late to the Teach Meet Party Oliver & although I’m not a classroom practitioner, I find them really energising & very focused for teachers. I can see the TM movement becoming one of the only CPD possibilities around in the very near future. I think we need to get the message out to schools about the benefits of them & encourage senior leaders to get staff to attend a local TM in place of a staff meeting maybe. That would give them status, credence & get other folk involved apart from those who are already keen.
    I am sure the originators of the movement might look on in surprise at the way things are moving but everything evolves. I’m not sure about the sponsorship angle or the money side of things but if TM are now moving into those areas we need to make sure that the information is out there for organisers so that they don’t fall foul of legislation.

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Thanks for the comment Julia. I agree with you that it would be very beneficial to encourage school leaders to recognise and value these events as CPD, and time given to engage with them as part of a teacher’s job could be very beneficial. However, what I think is key is the wider issue of teachers being encouraged, given time for, and recognised for taking control of their own CPD in the way this movement had grown up. It’s not about bringing TeachMeet into the establishment by having ‘official’ events run by school leaders with compulsory attendance. To my mind, it is about leaders recognising the importance of teachers’ agency in their own development, and encouraging and enabling them to take this control and get enthused about it.

  2. Jo Badge Avatar
    Jo Badge

    Like Julia, I don’t have wide experience of TeachMeets, I’ve only attended one so far but the debate at the weekend interested me. I think your summary is apt, people wanted to support something they believe in and needed to act to show their support. I’ve read @hgjohn’s summary, as the (perhaps unintentional) instigator of the debate and it’s clear that he was looking for action after being frustrated by his own attempts to act and poor experiences at other TeachMeets. Of all the issues, it is perhaps sponsorship that is the most contentious and seems to be the most intrusive in some TeachMeets. As something grows, it is natural for there to be new interpretations and new ways to try to develop the model and spread it to reach other people. It is natural to want to share something good with colleagues. I hope that people will heed your call to action and do something to promote or support TeachMeet themselves. I will certainly be making sure that the model is seen and used when I get started on my PGCE and when l start work.

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Thanks for the comments recently Jo. Sponsorship is certainly a big issue, and I had not really considered it as such before I ran my own TeachMeet last month. As came up in the debate, there are lots of companies keen to get involved in these events, some in a supportive way.

      I had to pull one presentation at our event as I felt it was more of a pitch than sharing classroom experiences. As Ewan has said, this required feeling like I was not being very ‘nice’. However, I think it is important that this remains by teachers, for teachers (see my reply to Julia above).

  3. John Sutton Avatar

    Others derided the debate on Twitter as circular. I don’t think it was particularly – it’s the nature of debating on Twitter that latecomers add their ha’porth without reading up on the previous history. It always leads to side debates heading off at tangents no matter how hard the original debaters try to keep it on track. As you rightly say, the key issue in the debate was whether there is a need for some kind of formal body to look after the aims and ethos of Teachmeet. Having listened to people carefully I have to say I am unconvinced. I too worry that the creation of an institution will stifle rather than develop, yet there is a clear need for much clearer guidance and support for Teachmeets (and I hope the Facebook initiative is one way of achieving this). I wonder whether a better solution might be an arms length body that supports all grassroots CPD and local networks so that loose movements like #northantsblt could benefit from some seedcorn funding as well as Teachmeet.

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      I think you are right about the nature of debate on twitter, and that is something that made it very hard to come to any sort of consensus, which as someone who had been following it for hours I found a bit frustrating. Sponsorship and institutions are key issues, and I am unconvinced of the need for either. For me the main issue was widening the access to the TeachMeet events, the challenge is doing this without introducing control which goes against the ethos of trust.

  4. Ewan McIntosh Avatar

    Circular debate, and not a particularly pleasant one, either. Your point on acting is just: but this debate is actually a year old, and the thought last year that anyone ‘act’ without ‘permission’ was tangibly out of the question. Since then, maybe things have caught up with themselves.

    But acting works a lot more effectively when it’s in the same direction, and that direction is provided for by the ethos. What came through in the tone of the discussion – and lack of trust displayed by a few – is that the ethos of TeachMeet is still not understood by many of the people crying out for centralised ‘control’ to keep things ‘right’.

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Thanks for the comment Ewan. I wasn’t involved in the debate a year ago, but I can see the frustration if the circle has been going round for that amount of time.

      I see your point on the ethos of trust, and this has made me think a lot about how we can be drawn to impose ‘traditional’ models of thinking onto new problems rather than look for something new.

      For me, there was something of a bitter taste to this debate. I can only hope that in outing some of the range in interpretations of the TeachMeet ethos, it can help everyone be clearer about where it is heading.

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