I’ve just come back from an epic 4 day study tour to Iceland, organised by Discover the World and supported by the Geographical Association. The trip was attended by trainee and recently qualified teachers and my role was to give an after dinner chat and provide the geography / learning input throughout the tour. Oh, and sort the coffee stops. It’s in this context that I found myself waiting at Keflavik airport and trying to tweet the Association at Work meeting. This post aims to set out what I think and feel about the organisation.
In a word, yes I whole heartedly support the work of the GA. However, my frustrations are well known. I used to be the Chair of the Secondary Phase Committee and have been a geography activist for as long as I can remember and a volunteer for the GA since around 2005. I’ve recently stepped down my commitments for a number of reasons. Before listing those though:
- I have total respect for the full-time paid members of the GA, including the new(ish) Chief Exec, they do a great job in interesting time.
- The volunteers which drive the GA I admire for giving up many many hours of their time in the relentless pursuit of developing high quality geography education.
- The GA has a very clear aim that I whole-heartedly support.
However, over the years, past the excellent GA Conference, I’ve found the organisation losing touch and under representative of grass roots teaching, especially at the higher levels. Of course, this could be about members not engaging with the GA, but I’ve just spent four days with young teachers who couldn’t really articulate what the GA could offer them. This, for me is the problem. I don’t do as much for the GA at the moment mainly due to family commitments and a desire to put time into developing my school career.
What I find frustrating is:
- A Twitter presence but no real engagement with teachers on twitter. I wonder how many new teachers use twitter and facebook? More importantly, how many trainee geography teachers do?
- I found Education Committee meetings very frustrating. For example, planning and preparing a response / contribution for it not be be heard or conversations not really getting off the ground. It seemed to be a sounding board for those that, may represent the active membership but not the grass roots. Could serving teachers get their voices heard at the higher end of the committee structure? I for one (who am no shrinking violet) felt my voice lost.
- It was interesting to get shot down for suggesting that members should get some value from their membership fee. What impact does the GA have on classroom level geography and what would we be doing anyway without the GA? With the new curriculum, academies, free schools and many other issues, is it helpful to have (to me) an unclear statement about some of the changes?
As I’ve said, I find that the GA does vital work, especially fighting at the National, political level. However, is it time the the committee structure starts to reflect the brilliant ‘different view.’
To finish, I’ll never forget someone sharing at one Association at Work event that they couldn’t understand how a Head of Geography at a school they visited could be any good as they weren’t a member of the GA. This is an outdated and crazy view.