We’re extremely proud to have sponsored, supported and enjoyed TeachMeets, of all flavours, for over 2 years.
But now the time has come to withdraw our TeachMeet sponsorship package, as graciously as we can.
There’s a number of reasons for this, and it’s not a decision we make lightly or on impulse. But before we explain how we’ve reached this point it’s worth reflecting on how we got here.
The first TM we sponsored was TeachMeet SLF September 2009, on request of Ollie Bray (who was a keen BrainPOP user himself). At the time there wasn’t a visual way of explaining the core concepts of TeachMeet. Ollie knew that a bespoke BrainPOP movie might be just the ticket to explaining TeachMeet to those teachers who were unfamiliar with it.
We sat nervously in the audience at the TeachMeet at the BBC center in Glasgow and waited for our animation to play, burning with embarrassment and anticipation as to how it would go down. Luckily it was well recieved (even with a little ripple of applause!) and we could get on with enjoying the TeachMeet.
This approach proved popular; REALLY popular. We had so many sponsorship requests that we formalised a TeachMeet sponsorship package which included a bespoke movie to help publicise the event, TM badges, a prize of a subscription for any raffle and free trial cards to help that happen – a pick and mix approach. This simple up front method really helped us and the TM organisers. In return we only asked for our logo on the wiki and a link back. If the event organiser did their own thing or requested more involvement on the night that was up to them.
We’ve always been clear that our help was more about promotion of the event. The TM movie was often played to kick off proceedings, for TM newbies and to re-emphasise the aims of the gathering (but as TMs often attract as many old hands as new, it could be seen to have become rather over familiar). We’ve met and formed friendships with 100’s of TM attendees & organisers. We sometimes “lurked” but NEVER presented, and joined in only when invited. We tried to offer our support in the spirit of TeachMeets (as tricky as that may be to define, and probably means different things to different people) and we’d like to think we’ve been advocates of TeachMeets, rather than simply “sponsors”.
So why are we withdrawing our sponsorship?
- If it’s come to pass that sponsoring a TeachMeet could make us look worse than if we didn’t (partly due to our ubiquity & partly due to the increasingly vocal disavowal and confusion over corporate involvement), then it’s time to step away.
- If trying to balance a sponsor’s involvement with the “ethos” of TeachMeets can actually lead to upseting people , then it’s time to step away.
- If sponsorship has simply become a box ticking exercise, then it’s time to step away.
We too find sales pitches in TMs to be distasteful and commercial needs “muscling in” disappointing. As Ian Addison, one of the organisers at BETT 2011, said to a presenter who was stretching to breaking point the boundaries of ‘classroom practice vs sales’ demo: “Yes, thank you, but we can all use Google to find resources“. The open source nature of the format has been key to its wild and explosive growth, which, by definition, will also bring growing pains.
- Do you need a “sponsor” (or commercial involvement) to host a TeachMeet? No, of course you don’t.
- Can you host a valuable and enjoyable TeachMeet with sponsorship? Of course you can (as has been proved time and again).
- Is there such a thing as a “perfect Teachmeet”? No, no more than there is a perfect way to teach or learn.
But, leaving aside the ethical debate (for truth be told it’s not our business how TMs should or shouldn’t work), the main reason for this choice is having seen 2 years of TeachMeet development we question is there a need for sponsorship at all? Look at Iain Hallahan’s new “TeachMeet 365” project for inspiration. His initiative has made this decision easier.
Perhaps, ultimately, “sponsor” is the wrong word to use when dealing with commercial parties and creates certain connotations that aren’t acceptable or applicable to a TeachMeet. What you’re actually seeking are “benefactors”, “patrons” or possibly “collaborators”.
TeachMeets are amazing in any form, size, complexity or ambition – go to one if you get the chance.
There’s still 10’s of 1000’s of teachers who have never heard of TeachMeet, and we’ll continue to support and evangelise the TeachMeet model where we can.
But to be clear – from this point forward, unless we can deliver real value e.g. the new wave of TeachMeets in Australia or TM Takeovers, we will no longer be offering sponsorship.