So this is what happened.  An idea for a conference around, initially, embedding diversity, which I tried and failed to organise on my own last year, appeared as a reminder on my ‘to do’ list, when I returned to work about six weeks ago.   I had the advantage of a gorgeous venue, no budget, some great ideas to talk about, no idea how to organise a conference, and not much time.

I mentioned it to the Year 2 Certs, at a time when they could be forgiven after two years’ graft for wanting to run for the hills – portfolios in, they could have been looking forward to an easeful summer.  Instead of which, caught up in the standard euphoria of a Community of Praxis session – their final Community of Praxis session – a group of soon-to-be graduates started the metaphorical snowball rolling down the slope.DSC_2567

Momentum grew.  From an initial email list of those people present when we discussed the conference on the day, the Community of Praxis:  TeachNorthern Facebook group began to spread the word.  Offers of help came in from PTLLS graduates, BA graduates, other Certs students…soon there were more helpers than jobs.

And the jobs kept getting done.  There was no question of me standing in the middle firing tasks out.  In fact, the weekend before the course began I went on holiday for a few days!  The willingness was infectious.  More and more people offered their time and energy; there was no last-minute panic (at least nothing major), no stepping in to do it myself.

On the day volunteers smiled, welcomed, presented, packed bags, gave directions, took photographs, guided walks, struck tableaux and made sure everyone was happy.  In six weeks, using social media, we’d got fifty delegates, all of whom participated with humour and insightful intelligence, who shared our social purpose values, who stayed until the very end (and then, in many cases, stayed chatting). Suzanne Kirkland-Wells (@greenlambkin) described the day to me in a text as, “grounding, affirming and joyful.”  Leanne Buckley (@leanne_buckley) tweeted that she’d regained the fire in her belly, thanks to the day.  Appreciation, indeed.  It was a joy beyond words to share our philosophy with them; I’m still processing what I’ve learned and how that feels.

In a world where many people wouldn’t dream of doing something for nothing, even if David Cameron thinks they should, I want to make it clear that everyone yesterday gave their time up for free, for no other reason than to be part of something.  And it was a day beyond compare; easeful, relaxed yet made you think, made you question yourself, challenged and inspired you.  I don’t need to see the evaluations, to know that.  And so the next time a letter arrives on my desk from XY and Z Associates, asking me to pay £600 to attend a two-day conference with a title that begins, “Towards…”, I’ll ask myself:  what’s going on?

Dedicated to #teamnorthern, whether you were there yesterday in reality, in Twitterland, or in spirit.  For photo, tweet, and (to follow) evaluation memories of the day, please click here.


Author: TeachNorthern

We are hard working educators with passionate interest in Teaching for a Social Purpose. Everything we've learned is through observing colleagues and students, all of whom are committed to changing the world. And reading interesting stuff. We work at The Northern College in Barnsley and its mission (and thirty-eight year history) of social transformation makes it an ideal base to face the challenges of teaching adults in 21st century England.

5 thoughts on “#teamnorthern”

  1. I really feel like I missed participating in something special. I was committed to teaching all day in Barnsley but I so wish I could have been there.

    1. One of the rules of the Community of Praxis I uncovered yesterday is an Open Space rule, that whoever is there are the right people in that moment. That’s what gives us momentum. Next time, next year, next Community of Praxis event and hopefully the timing will be better for you. So, no regrets 🙂

  2. Not at all surprised to hear great things about this event Lou. Its ripples have spread beyond the people who were there on the day.

    We talked about it at a WEA Tutor and Volunteers’ get-together in York on Saturday. The focus on social purpose in education is definitely re-igniting the fire in lots of people’s bellies. Of course, the concept isn’t new to Northern College or the WEA. It’s what both organisations were born to do.

    1. Absolutely, what we are each doing us re-explicating our founding missions, and energising each other. We are natural partners in this transformational philosophy and draw on the same friendship group of thinkers to inspire us.

      At the same time as you were writing this, I was commenting on your blog about the WEA tutors’ event in York, the ripples of which had got back to me. Lovely synchronicity!

  3. Only just seen this, Lou. I still look back on that day with fond memories and couldn’t agree more when you state that, ‘whoever is there are the right people in that moment’. Bring on #teachdifferent14!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s