‘Surround yourself with your tribe’ – Sir Ken Robinson from his inspirational book – Finding Your Element.
‘We are the people we have been waiting for.’ Heather at TeachMeet Belfast last night. It’s hard to choose which one of those quotes to begin with so I will put them both at the top of the page!
We did it… What began as a grand ambitious plan, floated on Twitter because of the people I had spoken to in Berlin and South Africa in 2010; then faded away into the ether of work commitments only to be resurrected by Corinne’s kick on the rear end in September 2011 finally came to fruition on the 2nd of March with the first ever TeachMeet for Northern Ireland teachers when we met in Stranmillis College with a packed room!
TeachMeet came to Belfast on the back of some outstanding hard work and commitment from some wonderful people. Most of whom I met only twice on the journey to last night’s event. I think that the power of social networking through Twitter and Facebook was demonstrated to the best level when it all came together for us in the packed lecture theatre.
The enthusiasm for our event was overwhelming and we could feel the excitement and the buzz in the air – it was electric as attendees piled into the hall and we realised that we were running out of seats! At least we achieved that one goal – of not falling flat on our faces to an empty room. To see the room fill up as Daithi’s ‘hastily’ arranged, atmosphere setting, audio/visual display played out was truly fantastic. The excitement built, the random generators were prepared and they spat out Damien McHugh to give us a wonderful ‘atmosphere setting’ 7 minute presentation on a Murder Mystery day in his school. His humour, enthusiasm and light-hearted approach to his presentation sent us off on a fantastic evening of ideas, collaboration. inspiration and information that flew by in the blink of an eye.
It looked and felt so smooth, but like anything – for it to look so good, there are always people pulling the strings and it was all coming together as the event unfolded. The raffles built excitement, some of the prizes being truly superb! You could feel the buzz of anticipation in the air as the ‘Fruit Machine‘ churned and all eyes directed looking for the outcome – from Easter eggs to £600 ICT schemes – we were like kids waiting for Christmas!
The dual screens worked a charm as there was always a constant Twitter feed using Visible Tweets to remind us that we weren’t just in the room. Seeing the tweets come in from all around Ireland and the UK just emphasised how wide we were broadcasting and how small the world is becoming. It also reminded us that people are interested, they want to know what’s going on and if they can’t make it physically they want to participate virtually. At one point there were 144 viewers watching the stream that was going out.
I think TeachMeet Belfast was a wonderful first advertisement for the creativity, collaboration and inspiration that is going on in our Northern Ireland classrooms. There were many there who weren’t teachers but had an interest in what is going on in our schools and I hope that they left with the feeling that things can be positive – that there are enough of us out there wanting to make a difference.
Even before the last attendee was leaving Stranmillis, all the talk was ‘when would the next one be?’ and ‘where would it be?’ So, yes, we will spread the word. The TeachMeet team are planning already. We are taking the feedback from the evaluations that people have been filling out for us and we will be making plans with them. Now that people see that we want to spread the word of collaboration and cooperation between schools, we hope that others want to join us and if last night’s reaction is anything to go by – we might be looking for a bigger venue!!!!
One final thought…
There is a definite ground swell of support for this type of event in Northern Ireland. What really made this obvious was the valuable support we received from our two principal backers – Microsoft Partners in Learning and Momentum.
Maybe we are the people THEY have been waiting for???