Saturdays are made for relaxing, family and sport. I used to have a season ticket at Southend United, and travel to many away games. For the last few years, I have dedicated myself to hockey and recently helped break a Guiness World Record for the longest ever game (see <here>). I also now take my son swimming, one of my favourite times of the week.
Yet I do find myself giving up a reasonable number of Saturdays for 'work related' activities. So far this year:
- ResearchEd (September)
- Michaela Debate (November)
- TeachFirst (March)
- London RE Hub (April)
- RE – Am I bothered? (June)
- HEI Credo Days (July)
Despite wanting to attend, I've said no to:
- Culham St Gabriel's Weekend (October)
- Strictly RE (January)
- Deabting Michaela (April)
- Northern Rocks (June)
- The Big Homerton Education Debate (July)
I had to pay out of my own pocket for all conferences I have attended on Saturdays, as well as my travel and any sustenance. This also doesn't include the many evening events I have attended including TeachMeets, talks and meetings.
The world of Edu-Twitter is not in any way representative, but I did a quick poll back in March:
This is quite astounding. I am not some isolated 'teacher-geek'; there is a substantial number of teachers regularly giving up Saturdays to attend conferences and education events.
My reason for doing the poll as I felt a real sense of guilt for hosting The London RE Hub on a Saturday when a number of RE teachers had already given up a good number of Saturdays. I was sure that their husbands, wives, partners and children were cursing me. I also knew that at the previous years' conference, around 20% had paid for their ticket out of their own pocket. It was a heavy weight.
Why run an event on a Saturday?
- Equal access - Some courses can sometimes be the reserve of heads of department or senior leaders. This is sometimes well cascaded, sometimes it is not. Sometimes teachers without leadership responsibility can be well positioned, enthusiastic and keen to improve and use the knowledge from the course.
- 'Rarely Cover' - This has resulted in far less staff being let out. It is out core purpose to be in school, teaching our students, but if we want to be better teachers, sometimes we need to spend a day out of school learning, reflecting and networking.
- School Budgets - This is linked to the above, but if you are self funding, you can't be told no.
- Social - You can go for a beer and curry afterwards. I have made good friends, and fantastic professional connections this way.
However there is some serious concerns here:
- Are schools going to expect staff to do CPD in evenings and weekends?
- Will staff continue to fail to balance professional and personal lives?
- Should staff be expected to pay out of their pocket for CPD?
- Do CPD records held by schools recognise the quality of grassroots, teacher organised CPD?
- Is there greater expectation to take part in these events if you are a Tweeting/Facebooking teacher who probably already spends several hours a week doing informal CPD via #SLTchat #UKEdChat, Facebook groups, forums?
I have had to start saying no. Even though sometimes I feel like I am missing out.
I have a young son, and I love spending my weekends with him. I also love playing hockey and spending time with friends and family. I also can't afford to spend £100 on a ticket / travel / food / hotel for such events. I also need a break. I need to switch off and forget about my job every now and again.
For what it is worth, I am sorry that I have had to organise events on a Saturday. I am sorry that the current climate demands this. Thank you for coming. I'll see you in the pub afterwards, and I'll even buy you a beer!
Tommy and I at the hockey club
Image: The Guardian