How a weekly coffee made me a better, more reflective, more fearless educator. Alternatively, what teachers can learn from cliff-divers
What if I told you that the best thing I ever did for my teaching career was to have a coffee?
I know as teachers we love to joke about the performance enhancing effects of caffeine but in this case it wasn’t about that. It’s about the company I was keeping while I was drinking that coffee that counts.
The First Coffee
It started about 3 years ago now. I was the lone nut in my new school (I’d been there about 9 months), flipping my maths classroom for the first time and really enjoying it. It’s a large school and I was flat out, so I hadn’t really met that many people outside of my maths staffroom bubble.
A teacher from the other side of the school (PE department!) got wind of what I was doing and wanted to try something similar. So we arranged a time to have a chat.
That hour was the most productive PD I’d ever had in my life. Here was a teacher who was…restless (she might say hyperactive). She was excited about education, she wanted to try new things and she wanted to make a difference.
After the hour of conversation was over, I realised this seemed quite different. I realised…
Teacher’s don’t talk much about education
Staffrooms talk about the weather, the upcoming election, the new australian curriculum, little Timmy, Jimmy and Sally, all sorts of things.
What we don’t talk enough about is our classrooms. It’s rare for teachers to ask each other “What cool things have been happening in your classroom?” or “What are you struggling with at the moment?”
Over the next 2 years, We settled into our schedule. About once a fortnight, it was coffee time. We used the one spare period that we shared to grab a coffee and talk about education.
We talked about our flipped classrooms. What was working, what wasn’t working. We both saw the value and we were determined to make it work. We endlessly workshopped our problems over lattes and banana bread.
We talked about teaching in a BYOD school. 56 screens (laptop and phone) in one classroom, how do you make that work to your students’ advantage? We taught in different subject areas, so we often ended up using different tools. But we always had to justify it to each other.
We Became Fearless
Have you ever been to a place like this?
I’ve never been a fan of heights but I have jumped from a few cliffs in my time. In my experience there is a way to increase your courage instantly.
This is partly what our weekly Coffee Chats were. We were endlessly goading each other into trying something new, taking a risk. Then we’d meet up the following week to see how that cliff jump had gone and start planning the next one.
The End/Start of an Era
A little while ago I came to a coffee chat armed with an advertisement for head of PE that I was certain my fellow cliff jumper should apply for. She’d seen it but of course it seemed like a pretty big cliff…
But she jumped, she got it and she just finished her first term as Head of PE at a great new school.
We caught up just yesterday for an end of term coffee and nothing has changed. We’re still plotting, scheming and egging each other on.