By Tom Rogers

As teachers have taken more control over their own personal CPD in recent years, TeachMeet Icons has grown from a single event to an international network. This is their origins story.

It was in June 2015 that I attended my first TeachMeet event. The idea had apparently emanated from some drinks in an Edinburgh bar between Ewan Macintosh and a few others circa 2006 who decided to meet again in said pub and have a chit chat about pedagogy. The TeachMeet was born.

In 2015, I was unaware of the origins story. All I knew is that I’d signed up for one of these so called TeachMeet events on Twitter. It was being organised by a guy called Chris Mayoh. He’d managed, somehow, to persuade a Manchester city centre ed-tech company to hand over their office, along with its self-contained bar and buffet area, to a gang of random teachers after school on a Wednesday.

I smuggled my friend Dan, who wasn’t even a teacher, along for the ride. I remember Chris welcoming us in, and wondered what the hell was going on. There were teachers, in their own clothes, drinking alcohol, and getting ready to listen to some presentations. I got a bit carried away. It ended up with myself, Dan and Chris in a casino at 3am. I had to teach the next day.

At that same TeachMeet at the Softcat offices was another twenty-something teacher who was starting to get excited about this new mix of after-work socialising and, well, partying; Kate Jones. We didn’t know each other at all at this juncture, but I remember us having a very brief chat before the event got underway. At this time, I was teaching in Warrington and Kate over in North Wales.

It must have been just a few weeks later that I decided it would be cool to create my own TeachMeet for History teachers. I had already connected with Kate on Twitter so reached out to her and others to see if they wanted to be involved in organising such an event. I think the original name we came up with was “Icons from History” or something along those lines – some later thought we were calling ourselves “Icons of Teaching”; it certainly wasn’t that!

We eventually settled on TeachMeet Icons. It would be a free event for teachers where teachers would share teaching practice. We chose a “pub-like” venue in Chester, a city we all liked. We needed money to pay for the venue and food for everyone so that’s where I decided that it would be good to find sponsors who might be interested in supporting the event in exchange for having a presenter spot. One of those was Nick Walmsley, a softly spoken Lancs man looking to set up his own schools tours company, called Time Travel Education – a sponsor who still sponsors all our History events to this day. The History event proved a big hit! Over 100 teachers attended from all over the country and we had lots of teachers volunteer their time and expertise to speak.

In 2017, we had our first ever Geography event, led by Victoria Hewitt (@mrshumanities), another great ally of TeachMeet Icons. Fast-forward to today, and we have regular events in English, Maths, Science, Religious Education, Design and Technology, Wellbeing and more. I have been blessed with a team of amazing volunteers to run and manage our events, all of them full time practicing teachers.

You can find out more about our team members here and do get in touch if you want to join in yourself! https://www.teachmeeticons.com/ambassodors

Prior to lockdown, one of the things I’ve loved about our events has been the atmosphere, one in which teachers have always remarked about the inclusivity and friendliness. I’m unsure whether that comes from the blasting of music, the free bar and food or the fact our events usually take place on Saturdays, but everyone is always buzzing! It creates a slightly more professional version of a pub on a Friday night!

Somehow though, that same atmosphere has managed to permeate our online events too. 2020 was a year of huge growth with our online events reaching thousands of educators around the world. One attendee of our recent events described it as Really useful, lovely atmosphere, sometimes these things can be very pretentious but you’ve managed to keep it non-judgmental and should be proud.” It’s this inclusivity and warm approach that has enabled us to grow, driven by those who have believed in the idea of helping other teachers.

You can sign up to any of our upcoming online events here https://www.bigmarker.com/communities/teachmeeticons/conferences

And you can find out more about TeachMeet Icons here www.teachmeeticons.com

Thanks for reading and maybe see you soon!

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