BETTer with friends

Disclaimer: This post does not contain any educational content it is my own personal reflection on the last couple of days and why I think we are in the greatest profession in the world. 

I am currently on the train back to Liverpool after what have been some of the most exciting and exhausting days in my teaching career.

This year I have been lucky enough to be able to spend a few days at the BETT show in London. Every year thousands of Teachers, ICT specialists, Suppliers, Inventors, Presenters and Foreign Dignitaries descend on East London for one of the world’s biggest Educational and Technological shows. It is truly an incredible place and the sheer size of the show is daunting for any first time visitor.This was not my first time visiting BETT. In fact this year would be my third successive BETT show, it would, however, be the first year I would be attending and staying in London so as to attend as many of the seminars, workshops, and speeches as I could during my visit, whilst also having time to talk to suppliers to continue the roll out of our ICT plan in school.

I arrived at the show on Thursday afternoon after checking into my hotel and I was buoyed by the prospect of not having to worry about rushing back to Euston before the end of the day. In previous years I have come with a plan and stuck to it. “This year,” I thought “I will take my time and try to absorb as much as I can, if I wander off the plan then so be it. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Since September I have been consciously more active on Twitter, not only is it a great place to pick up ideas and tips, the teaching community on there is incredibly supportive. I have had twitter conversations with various members of this community and a few of us are involved in overlapping projects around the country. So walking around the show amongst the myriad of vendors and displays a strange social phenomenon occurs. As we all wear badges that proudly display our name, institution and job role you start to recognise familiar names. You recognise these names from Twitter and start to put faces to the Twitter handles. The awkward part is, you’ve had conversations with these people perhaps even collaborated with them, but you’ve never seen their face, or they yours.  You stand there for a moment staring, at them. Maybe give them a smile, and you can see them thinking “What is this idiot doing? Why is he staring?” Then they glance downwards to your badge and read your name and the most amazing thing happens. They go through the exact same mental process and suddenly its like you are being greeted by a long lost friend. 

This happened with several people as I walked around the show and it honestly made my day. Previously I had felt like a customer wandering around a marketplace and although you talked to merchants about their products a lot of the conversation was usually a sales pitch. The show took on a different meaning for me and I started to see the community that was built into the fabric of an event like this. 

As I was staying over I had decided to attend the Teach Meet at the end of the day on the Friday and the subsequent Teach Meet Eat in the bar next to the venue. Not knowing anyone (outside of Twitter) I was hoping that I could maybe spot a friendly face and hope they wouldn’t mind a +1 for the evening. As I made my way into the Bett arena (a cosy 500 seater venue) I had tagged along with a few other people and we took our seats. I felt like the new kid at school and I’d wandered into a friendship group where really I had no place being. Then the same phenomenon occurred again, except these people didn’t know me from Twitter they just accepted me as one of their own. More people arrived and as greetings and hugs were exchanged between people joining this group I realised, these people really do only see each other in a group setting once (maybe twice) a year and mainly keep in touch through Twitter, blogs and emails. 

By the end of the evening the number of people I was “following” had increased as had my own “follower” count. I had a new group of friends, friends whom I could call upon to help with resources, lend an ear, help solve a problem as well as get together once a year for a cheeky drink in the Fox. 

So today as I was walking around Bett on my final morning in the capital I saw more familiar faces than I have ever done previously. I saw a few more unexpected resource sessions than was on my plan thanks to my Twitter feed and left knowing that the first thing I will be doing when I get home is booking my hotel for #BETT2016.


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