Friday, March 20, 2015

If You Host It....

Have you ever been to a teacher/blogger meet-up?? The joys and wonders of social media have made it SO easy for passionate educators to connect with one another! I love reading about the adventures of other crazy teachers who, like me, pour themselves COMPLETELY into their profession! They lay their hearts fully down for their students and then take time from their busy lives to share their shenanigans with the world... and I just LOVE the chance to be around the energy of these amazing people! Facebook, Instagram, the blogging world, and TpT have given me the FABULOUS opportunity to come into contact with these amazing people.. and what's more, even have the chance to MEET them in person! Yes, we all have colleagues, and many of them may be some of our best friends. But this social media world is a like a more fun version of professional development! I don't think you can ever have surround yourself with too many like-minded, positive people! So WHY NOT!?!

This year, I hosted a second annual meetup in northeast Ohio! You can read about last year's meet up here.

It was SO wonderful! 18 girls met up in Warren, OH for dinner, and I was once again in AWE! We ate, we laughed, we played a game, and just spent time as women and as teachers discussing anything and everything!

I got to see my dear, sweet friend Ashley from Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd once again... she is just wonderful. I'll be getting to see her again in Vegas this summer too, and I can't wait!

My new BFF Rebekah (on the far right) is also my colleague and go-to buddy at school! I was so glad she was able to come and that I could share this amazing world with her! She became fast friends with these girls :)

I FINALLY got to meet my *super* sweet friend
Kristina from Owl-ways Learning! She couldn't
come to the meet up last year, so I was THRILLED
to be able to meet her after feeling as though I have
known her for YEARS! I am hoping she will be
joining us in Vegas this summer, too! :)

My sweet friend Kristi, @trendyteacher on Instagram, has become a real-life friend 
so quickly! We met last year after months of chatting on IG and met for brunch a
 few weeks ago, too. Her energy is contagious, and her fashion sense is superb!
We're the "tall girls" ;) haha

 Check out everyone who attended!

Kathleen from Middle Grades Maven
Chynell from The Pinspired Teacher
Jennifer from Everything Just So
Diane from One Giggle
Kristina from Owl-ways Learning

Several bloggers got sick or had some conflicts arrive, and couldn't attend last minute... but hopefully we will see them again next time!

I know through IG I have talked with many other teacher-bloggers who have said they wish there was a meet-up in their area. I felt the same way last year, so I thought I would encourage you to HOST YOUR OWN!

Here's a few tips and suggested I've compiled while wading through this on my own. They may not be earth-shattering or mind-blowing...  they are meant to encourage others out there who, like me, want to attend a meet-up! So, please, don't make fun of me!
Here are some thoughts after two successful gatherings...

Tip 1:

It seems obvious, but it can be oh. so. easy. to psyche yourself out and into thinking that you are a nobody, and that nobody will want to attend your meet up. I remember thinking about putting feelers out for one last year and thinking to myself, "I don't want to look stupid. What if there is already a meet up in our area and I don't even know about it?" and "What if no one wants to come?" and "Who am I to host a meet up? I barely have any followers!"  TRUST ME. All of those thoughts are ridiculous! If there was a meet up in your area, you probably would have seen something from someone at some point along the way, unless you don't follow any one on any social media anywhere... and then you probably wouldn't be aware these happen anyhow. Second, we are all uber-passionate teachers.. we WANT to do things like this! I'll borrow a line from one of my favorite movies... "If you HOST IT.. they WILL COME!"

Tip 2:

Again, it seems obvious, but don't rely on just one site. I would have had ZERO interest if I only used my blog. I would have had ZERO interest using only my Facebook, but INSTAGRAM? I had 45 emails within two days of posting this year. Teachers are visual. Don't have an IG? I highly recommend getting one. It's easy, free, and TONS of fun! When I hosted last year's, for the first time, I probably had half as many followers as I currently do and over 20 girls joined us! I used ONLY Instagram (and email) to organize last year's meet up (and mostly did the same for this year as well) and it all came together beautifully!  You can also use fun hashtags so everyone can link up! If you're on IG check out the tags #NEOTeacherMeetUp & #NEOBloggerMeetUp to see our fun pics from the last two years!

Tip 3:

When I first put out the interest photo on IG this year, I had an idea in mind of when I wanted to host the meet up. Thinking about my schedule, the schedule of busy teacher-bloggers like me, and what school schedules are *mostly* like, I knew spring would be best. We live in northeast Ohio, so winter is out. Weather and driving conditions are rough, to say the least. There are also holidays to consider. December & January are crazy-busy for EVERYONE, not just teachers. February is still too winter-y, and anything past April brings testing, Spring Breaks, and end of the year busy-ness. Fall is back to school time, and teachers are getting settled into their new year, and summer is SUMMER! You might get some interest, but it's also time for people to take a break, go on vacation, and etc.
So, do the same. Think through your area, think through the weather, and go with your gut on the time of year. If it works okay for you, it probably works okay for a majority of the others interested.

Tip 4:

Don't be afraid to ask for help. You'll be surprised to find how many people are willing to pitch in to help you organize an awesome meet up! The first way I asked for help? I asked for dates people were available so I had a general idea of a date to select, and asked for venue ideas in the region. With SO much initial interest this year, I knew a regular restaurant would be out. So, I reached out and asked for ideas! Ideas came rolling in, and suggestions sparked a variety of ideas. I also started having trouble getting prizes. I mentioned that in one of my emails about the meet up details and before I knew it, people pitched in and we have enough for EVERYONE to win something this year! It was fantastic.

Tip 5:

Our first year, we met at The Cheesecake Factory at a big, long table in the middle of the restaurant. The food was delicious and everyone had a great time, but mingling? Forget it! I barely talked to the ladies at the other end! It also made playing the game a tad difficult. I had to stand by the table in the middle of a busy restaurant, mind you, and help everyone hear what everyone else said, as well as pass tickets back and forth for everyone. After a few hours, though our group shrank, we were offered free cheesecake from the manager to leave!! I guess we overstayed our welcome! hahaha
This year, I knew we needed a separate room, especially after interest from over 40 people! So, ask around and look for a place that will accommodate your large group in your own room. I wanted us to all have separate checks, so people could order what they wanted (but did have to select a limited menu). No one was obligated to spend a lot, or anything at all.
Next year? It may just have to be more buffet style and a flat fee to attend.... we shall see! But for now, my hubby wanted me to keep it simple, so I did. It also made it nice that if someone couldn't attend last minute, they weren't out any money and neither was I!

Tip 6:

Make some, buy some, whatever you have to do.. just make sure everyone has a name tag. It makes it super easy to identify one another without too many awkward introductions. After last year, when everyone was following everyone else on IG, I made my own and put everyone's IG photo on for easy identification! Here's how they looked:

I also made sure everyone got a brochure with everyone's information, so we could all make sure we are following one another on IG, TpT, and our blogs to stay connected after the meet up!

Tip 7:

It's a lot easier to design and organize everything with a "theme." This year, when I made the interest graphic, I put a pencil on it. Everything there after was the basic colors of a pencil! Yellow, black, pink, and a hint of silver. I kept it streamlined and classy, and it looked pulled together, even though I didn't feel like it did! ha 
Last year, we met just after St. Patty's Day, so rainbows & gold was the "theme." I got everyone a gold pencil that said NE Ohio Blogger Meet Up 2014 from Oriental Trading, gold paper clips, gold coin chocolates, and other gold items (I can't currently remember) in little rainbow pails. Creative Teaching Press gave us some shamrock goodies and it was fabulous. I'm already thinking about next year.... :)

Tip 8:

A game is a great way to get people talking and laughing! Last year, we played a version of "Never Have I Ever." Everyone was given ten "tickets." We went around the table and each person shared something they had never done (keeping in mind the audience of the group). If someone HAD done it, they had to give that person a ticket. Some people were out of tickets pretty quickly! Others had oodles by the time we were done! So, keeping in mind that we were all women, saying that I had never dyed my hair or never got my ears pierced won me a BUNCH of tickets! Then, everyone wrote their name on all of their tickets, I threw them in a bucket, and used them to draw for prizes!
This year, we played a version of "Find Someone Who." Most teachers are pretty familiar. I gave everyone a heads-up on their brochure to think of their favorite of things (many teacher related).. they included the following (in case you need an idea!)
favorite candy bar
favorite color
favorite social media site
favorite subject to teach
favorite type of pen
favorite place to shop
least favorite household chore
favorite television show

Everyone was assigned 10 "points" (because I forgot my tickets at school!) I would call out a category, and everyone had to find someone with the same answer as them. Together, they continued to find everyone with the same answer. After a few seconds, I called "time" and each group shared their answer. If two groups had the same answer (but didn't find each other) they lost a point. We really didn't care about the points, but just had fun mingling, sharing our answers, and learning about one another. It was an excellent ice breaker and got everyone moving around! If I had actually remembered the tickets, I would have had everyone write their name of the tickets they had when the game ended and used them to draw for prizes. But that was a bust. I used the Random Number Generator on my phone to do it instead. Everyone got a number and I randomly called out numbers to pick a prize throughout the evening. It worked out well, but I WILL remember the tickets next year!

Tip 9:

Who doesn't love taking a little something from a party or gathering?? These may come out of your pocket, but they add just a little touch of love to the meet up! This year, a 4th grader at my school (yes, you read that right!) made me cupcakes. I wanted to match my THEME! and look like pencils. So, she made them yellow with pink frosting. I added silver sprinkles and a black tag with No. 2 on it for the finishing touches. Everyone raved about them. I helped a student's business, and they were delicious. Worth. Every. Cent. My hubby & students enjoyed the extras too!:)

Tip 10:

......DUH! Who wouldn't want to capture those memories?

I hope these "tips" or recommendations I have discovered in hosting my little meet ups inspire and encourage you to host your own! DON'T BE AFRAID!! I promise you.. it is TOTALLY worth it!


  1. The meet up was wonderful! You did an amazing job, and I am forever thankful that I was able to attend! xxoo Diane

  2. Thank you so much for this! I remember you hosting this past spring and came here to see if you had blogged about it! A bunch of us were talking about organizing a central Ohio meet up soon and I was looking for ideas. :) I may email you with more questions as we start planning!! :) Thank you! -Natalie-