Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Professional Learning Team. Not.

Once a fortnight, in that precious time between 3.30 and 4.30 in the afternoon, when everyone's worn out, after the day's teaching, prep and marking, we teachers assemble for another mandatory inevitable meeting. This one's called, oddly, Professional Learning Teams. I say oddly, because I'm yet to do any professional learning through this forum.

This year, I'm on the Information and Communication Technology team. Sounds good, but it's not. It reminds me of my own Form Six Politics class back in the early 70s, in that I didn't learn much in that class either. The teacher was disengaged and so were we. My loss, I know. Suppose it's the same with this PLT.

This afternoon it is even more hysterical than usual. Outside, winds of unprecedented strength for Melbourne, whip up anything that isn't lashed down. I wonder how I'm going to cope on my cycle home; whether I'll beat the storm. (I didn't, but it was fun anyway.)

And what's more, we rely on the internet in this PLT. But the internet at school hasn't functioned for three days due to storm damage, or some such. Needless to say, we are all led into the ICT room anyway. (No way could we be allowed to spend that hour preparing for classes. No, we must 'meet', dammit, and tick the box for 'professional learning', even if few are learning. Thus the school can report to the region that we have a 'culture of professional learning' and that all staff members are on PLTs.)

Our convenor, hands us reams of printed notes - the photocopier still works, apparently - interpreting VELS for ICT for the assembled group of teachers - about ten of us. Naturally, I began to read the document as soon as I got it. Bad move. Should have waited for our convenor to read it aloud to us. Should have seen that one coming. And wasn't that rivetting.

Our convenor, BTW, is sitting in a zen-like cross legged configuration on his desk top. He's earnestly trying to engage us, with his breathy, cultivated tones, but nobody's listening. I'm trying to be good, but I can't. The whole process just seems like sketch comedy.

One of my colleagues, is leaning back in his chair, eyes serenely closed, balancing his wrist watch along the line of his nose. The rogue art teacher is being deliberately provocative, as is his wont. He's an eccentric man-boy with the emotional maturity of a thirteen year old in his lanky fifty-something frame. He talks over the convenor and contradicts everything. Another colleague is reading an Artemis Fowl book. Others talk amongst themselves.

A colleague gets a call on his mobile. Unapologetically, he drifts out of the room for a couple of minutes and returns to interrupt the proceedings. Can I make an announcement? he says, taking the floor. His wife has called to tell him that the city of Melbourne has been evacuated. It's the end of the world, it seems. There's a brief pause while we process the information. No one seems particularly perturbed. I think it's probably an overreaction, given my husband works in town and I haven't heard of any drama from him. I consider that knowing my old man, he'll probably evacuate from his city office to the local pub. (He does.)

The time ticks slowly towards 4.30 and my cycle home in the 'cyclone'. If I could have skipped the meeting I'd have beaten the storm.

The ICT team again learns nothing. Whose fault? Mine? Yeah, I suppose. I'm an oldie and I should know better. Funnily enough though, I've always pursued my own professional learning without anyone telling me to, even during the eleven years when I was only teaching one evening class for three hours a week. It's what I do. But this school based 'professional learning team' that's been imposed on me, and my colleagues, just doesn't seem to work. Except for a bit of ironic entertainment value.

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