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.
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.