Monday, April 23, 2007

The art of the pathetic professional development presentation.

First, pay your audience to attend.

Last week. First week of term two.

Principal: I’d really like you and Helen to attend this Literacy PD.

Me: I did get the email about that PD but I didn’t think it would be appropriate for me as I attended a Literacy Coordinators’ conference for five days not so long ago at great expense to the school.

Principal: But they really want people to attend this PD. Maybe they haven’t had many takers because they’re prepared to pay schools to cover the cost of emergency teachers.

Me: But that will mean I’ll miss teaching my year 12s. Ahh, I suppose they’ll cope. They’ve got plenty of work to do. But Helen doesn’t normally work on Mondays. It’s her day off.

Principal: Do you think she might go anyway?

Me: Well, knowing Helen (very dedicated; always goes above and beyond the call) she won’t mind. Perhaps you could pay her the CRT money for working on her day off.

Principal: No. (Laughs nervously.) Well, I’ll put you both down for it.

Me: (Thinks. Hmm. Probably won’t be too bad. Two days off campus followed by Anzac Day on the Wednesday. It’ll be like a holiday week with a bit of learning thrown in. Pollyanna. Fool.)

The PD

A literacy resource has been created for literacy leaders in both primary and secondary state schools. This has been compiled by some hard-working seconded teachers who work for the department of education. The resource is actually useful in that it provides theory and teaching strategies and it’s linked to the Victorian Essential Learning Standards. The department is evidently keen to get it out there into schools. One requires a bit of time to get one’s head around this multi-layered resource; bit of time to read the dense text and work out all the interfaces. The PD time-out could be used very effectively to allow teachers to wrap their minds around it with a bit of planned direction.

But no.

Find a presenter who thinks very highly of itself. (Let’s protect this person by giving it anonymity, after all, this is just about me venting.) Give your presenter free rein to be spontaneous; to have a vague notion of where the day might serendipitously head. Allow the presenter to waste time by talking itself up and advertising its own private enterprise.

Find a presenter who claims to be a master of its field and who spends time explaining how clever it is and how much longer than everyone else it’s been teaching. Allow the presenter to bring in silly hats, bells, whistles, squeezy noise-makers, rattles and wigs. The presenter encourages us to play with and wear these toys. Isn’t the presenter a wag? Isn’t it jolly? Isn’t it so hilariously funny? Aren’t we all so stimulated to learn by this puerile patronizing adult play?

Spend the first forty-five minutes of everyone’s precious time getting them to introduce themselves around the room. That’ll get our presenter half way to morning tea break. Keep reminding the group of the time line for the day, rather than actually teaching them anything.

Tell the group they’re going to do a ‘jigsaw’ activity to share their expertise around the group. But first ask if anyone’s unsure what a ‘jigsaw’ activity is. Everyone knows, according to the lack of raised hands. But go on. Explain what the activity comprises anyway. After all, that’ll take up more time.

Now, give your captive teachers a vague task. They are required to read some brief theory about a literacy guru then share it with others in this jigsaw activity. “Right, you’ve got ten minutes. Right, stop. Time’s up,” our presenter says before we’ve had time to digest the material. Off we go to our allocated tables to try to sound intelligent. Somehow, we manage.

During the morning, we are encouraged to write our responses to the session on post-it notes and stick these to the whiteboard. Our presenter wants lots of notes. After lunch, our presenter – “I’m being very brave”, it says. “I’m not going to go home and cry” – reads out the negative comments. One reads. “This is vague and directionless. I have learnt nothing that I can use back in my school. It’s a waste of time.”

So, we’re made to ‘workshop’ this, and other negative comments, in groups. We’re required to valiantly turn the negatives into positives. We’re amazingly tolerant and kind in our responses. “Now wasn’t that a good activity? You can do the same with your own classes when they’re being negative!”

The post-it note activity takes around forty minutes. What had our presenter planned to do had five people in the group not been brave enough to write some honest comments?

And while all this transpires, our presenter drifts around the tables in a variety of wigs and hats, stating the bleeding obvious and big-noting itself, completely oblivious to the negative body language in the room despite being a self-proclaimed and no doubt masters-degreed expert in neuro-linguistic programming.

And I’ve got another day of it tomorrow. I regaled my hapless pharmacist with the story when I popped in to get another packet of Codral Day and Night tabs after the day had ended. Ironically, I would have had to stay home sick today had I been required to teach. His suggestion for coping with the second day of the presentation? When you get there, take two of the night time tabs.

I’d prefer to set my Year 10s on our presenter. They wouldn’t spare our presenter’s feelings.

1 comment:

Anne Mitchell said...

Hi FT,

You should've wagged the second day (or at least the afternoon).

Anne Mitchell