In this continuing series showcasing EIS members’ professional development journeys, Highland Local Association member Irene answers some questions about what got her engaged with EIS professional learning and what keeps her engaged.

Irene, what first caught your eye about EIS professional learning?

"I'd noticed various events in the past and thought 'that looks interesting' or 'wonder what that might be about?' but never actually applied: I was too busy; the training was too far away; these are only for important people - not teachers like me (whatever that meant) and so on…

"Then, in 2013, I was reading through the SEJ magazine, and saw an ad for the Impact of Poverty conference and something moved me to apply for a place.

"We are all aware that society is not a level playing field for all children but by attending that event I began to appreciate more what incredibly valuable work our union does on nationally important issues, like child poverty, and also what a difference even one comment from one teacher can make to help. The insights being at that conference gave me have certainly made a lasting impression.

"And, after that, I just found myself signing up for more and more events."

What has been the highlight of your engagement so far?

"That’s a difficult one. There, genuinely, have been so many highlights. I think Pasi Sahlberg's presentation at Empowering Teachers: Turning up the Volume on Professional Voice was fascinating.

"The Empowering Women Trade Unionists event was also exceptional. One colleague described it as being like a gift she wishes she could give every teacher and I'd wholeheartedly share that sentiment.

"And sometimes I meet former pupils at these events too (just as recently as last month at the Growing Teacher Leadership course in Edinburgh) and that makes me very happy and proud."

You’ve become a welcome, familiar face at courses and events. How does your engagement support you personally and professionally?

"Professionally, these have been very useful. Most recently, I attended an excellent workshop at which Joan Lennon explained the Working Time Agreement.

"Attending some of events allows me to schedule time to help me keep up (as well as counting towards the 35 hours mandatory professional development).

"Socially, I've met so many interesting people too. You know that you will have something in common with those you meet at these events (we're all in education) but it's more than that.

"There have been countless occasions where something someone has said has made an impression on me and, I'm told, contributions or comments I've made which have helped others too.

"It's a mutually beneficial arrangement and, unlike some other training I’ve attended, I've found every EIS event genuinely engaging; I'm not thinking about all the other things I could be doing instead and I always take away something new."

Is there anything else you would like to see EIS offer?

"The recent Teachers' Health and Wellbeing Event I was at was well attended – by women. The one man who was there made excellent contributions and was a valuable asset to the day.

"But, sadly, men do seem more reluctant to talk about the stresses of the job and self-care, but they are just as in need of it and surrounded by encouraging, supportive colleagues is great, and safe, place to do so.

"Currently, EIS is running training in Growing Teacher Leadership. I think we could go further."

What would be your advice to someone who hasn’t yet engaged in EIS learning and events?

"You know I said at the start that I'd felt these events were just for 'the movers and shakers'? Well, I’d forgotten something very important: as I was battling away, like so many of us, trying to keep my head above water managing the excessive workload of a teacher and meeting family responsibilities, I forgot that, as teachers, we're all movers and shakers.

"We all make a difference. And if we want society to 'value teachers', we need to remember to value ourselves and that includes giving ourselves permission to have a work day outside the classroom; to go and join in face to face conversations with colleagues from across the country; to learn a new skill or hone ones we already have.

"Go on! Get moving! Get shaking! Get involved with EIS learning and events. I'm confident you'll be glad you did."