Sunday, 28 February 2016

Organising TeachMeet Sussex

Since moving from a Hampshire school to a Sussex school in 2013, I have been organising TeachMeet Sussex with Ben.  We had been going to TeachMeet Hants at various schools around Hampshire but it was a long way to go.  There was nothing similar in Sussex - there were odd TeachMeets organised by certain schools or teachers occasionally but no events which moved around the county termly.  We decided that TeachMeets were such useful events which left us fired up for teaching and inspired to try new ideas; we wanted to set something up closer to home.  

TeachMeets are quite simply events organised for and by teachers in which ideas are shared and discussed.  Some TeachMeets involve a few people chatting over a pub meal while others put on elaborate food and drink, 'celebrity' teacher keynote speakers and thousands of pounds worth of prizes to attract large crowds to attend.  We decided we wanted something in the middle; an organised event at different schools with presentations from teachers and, sometimes, a free prize draw for attendees.  This is absolutely not the only or "right" way to run a TeachMeet; it is simply what works for us and how we want the event to run.  Many people have asked how we set up and organise the TeachMeet Sussex events so hopefully this blog post will give an idea as to what we do.

Traditionally, TeachMeet Sussex events are held on Thursday nights.  They last from 5pm-7pm to allow people time to get to the venue and to get home to put their children to bed.  Generally, they take place in a school hall but can be in a large classroom or a smaller meeting area.  After the event, some attendees gather in a local pub for a reasonably-priced meal and further chat about the ideas shared.  We aim to have one event each term and we try to hold them in a variety of schools across Sussex.

We have had 30 - 80 people attend TeachMeet Sussex events and we keep it very informal; any teachers can present an idea and we don’t have keynote speakers.  The events with the highest attendees had prizes from sponsorship companies, were advertised with flyers beforehand and had the headteacher of the school as our main contact. We try to have no more than two presentations from organisations (i.e. not teachers) at each event and we ensure that they are sharing only free ideas.

Before the event we:
  • spread the news via Twitter,
  • list the event on the UK TeachMeet Wiki
  • fill in the form to get the event advertised on FaceBook,
  • create a sign-up Google Form so we know who will be coming,
  • run the website,
  • line up people to share ideas, 
  • design, create and print the flyer using Vistaprint,
  • line up sponsorship and prizes,
  • book a local pub for a meal afterwards,
  • send emails to previous attendees about the event,
  • tell as many people as possible about the event,
  • send flyers to local schools via free internal mail.  
On the day we provide: 
  • any prizes from sponsors, 
  • raffle tickets, 
  • directions to the local pub if it's far away,
  • cupcakes! 
Before the day, we ask the school to: 
  • line up a few teachers from their school to share ideas,
  • pay for Vistaprint flyers invoice (around £20 - £40 depending on the size)
  • prepare for someone to be around to lock up,
  • arrange for TeachMeet to be their staff meeting for the week,
  • ensure the computer has minimal internet blocks (Prezi, Pinterest, YouTube, Google Drive and Twitter and popular site which people use to present.  Adobe Flash is essential as well). 
On the day we ask to the school to provide: 
  • a room with chairs, a computer and a screen,
  • tea, coffee and any other refreshments,
  • a wi-fi code for attendees to use on their phones and tablets to tweet and follow the event. 

Generally, the event runs as follows:
4:00
We aim at the school to help set up.  This is traffic permitting.
4:30
Attendees start to arrive for refreshments and cupcakes.  In this time we check the technology works for people who wish to use it.  
5:00
First half of presentations.  We welcome attendees to the event and presentations start.  Sometimes presenter order is chosen by a random generator, other times we specify the order if there are people who need to arrive or leave at different times.  There are 5-7 presentations in the first half.
5:50
10 minute break to chat and refresh.  We hand out raffle tickets or prepare the random name/number selector.
6:00
Raffle.  We encourage attendees to pick a raffle ticket out the hat or we use the random name/number selector. Winners choose their prizes in order of selection.
6:10
Second half of presentations; about 5 to finish off.
7:00
We close the event by thanking attendees, sponsors, presenters and host school.  We encourage all attendees to help with the clear up and then give directions to the local pub.  

Each TeachMeet Sussex event is slightly different but we try to keep similarities so that it's easier to organise and our regular attendees know what to expect.  Recently, we have started sending host schools a letter which contains information similar to that in this blog post so they know what to expect and provide.  We have found this has made the events run smoother because schools have been more prepared.  

You can find out more about TeachMeet Sussex here and can view upcoming TeachMeets around the UK here.  

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