So on the morning of Friday 15th November 2013 I packed my bags for the first ever @sltcamp. Trying to explain to people what I was doing, was met with confusion. Family were told I was off to a Youth Hostel south of London with no mobile phone signal to spend the weekend with people I have only ever met on twitter. Imagine the response when they heard I only knew them via #sltchat once a week for half an hour via tweets. I then justified it further by saying I knew they were real people as I had seen a chapter written by one of the organisers in a book I had bought recently. In a final effort to show they were real people and it wasn't an e-safety nightmare I forwarded several of the planning emails and my coordinates for the weekend.
It was with trepidation that I drove down single lane tracks in a dark and secluded wood. Getting my bags out of the car I definitely did not have a phone signal so it required some positive thinking to knock on the door to the youth hostel. Never has it been so nice to be met by a fellow SLTcamper who said yes you are in the right place. Rooms are labelled, drop you stuff and we're getting set up. I had the luxury of arriving slightly early as this was my first ever teachmeet. I had decided to just do an entire weekend to find out what everyone on twitter has been raving about. I am so glad I went.
The evening kicked off with lots of finding out who people were. Twitter helped, as did the bios and blogs but the most positive benefit was meeting people face to face and having the chance to keep conversations going all weekend. Networking of this type is the strength of grassroots CPD and I will talk about this for a long time to come. I had decided to attend to meet with forward thinking SLT and I wasn't disappointed. A weekend of laughter and support from a group of adults who all want to continue their professional learning.
Such a diverse range of people, backgrounds, geographical locations and teaching positions. It meant a truly rich conversation. 6 minute presentations began at 9pm and such enthusiasm for their topics people often did have to duck to avoid the balloon timer. Such was the quality of chat many people retired at a very late hour - to be awoken nice and early with cooked breakfast.
Saturday morning meant a convoy to the teachmeet in the village hall. How can I explain to colleagues in my own school that this was an unconference to be run by the agendas of people who attended. Sarah and Stephen were great at facilitating timings and making sure that everyone had the chance to get what they wanted out of the day. Feeling free to move from pedagogy to leadership topics meant I came away buzzing with ideas and positivity to bring back to my own school.
The evening allowed for an overspill of these conversations and dancing allowed the mind to slowly digest the learning. It was another long but worthwhile day. Sunday morning numbers may have been depleted but those who stayed enjoyed many a video from inspirational leaders. Just the icing on the cake to send us home. Truly pleased I put myself out of my usual comfort zone and that the 2 hour drive allowed me to start thinking through how I can share this experience.
SLT beanie to be worn on Monday gate duty . Then I can explain why I'm wearing it to staff. This is the beginning of a new learning experience and I hope there are many more to come.