And so the decree went out from Tiberius that there would be a census of teachers and verily those found wanting were legion. The word from on high was that teachers, already sorely stretched, were to undertake ongoing training. It was called Professional Development and the yoke was heavy upon them…
Upon arrival at the gulag where you are to be re-educated for a half-day or day — or God save us, an evening — the first time PD participant understands very quickly that, like women who dress for other women (don’t tell the men!), teachers dress to impress other teachers. (Many a tea urn conversation has turned to the vivid ensemble modelled by the drama teacher who is not in the least embarrassed to resemble a marine inhabitant of the Great Barrier Reef. A striped cleaner wrasse, perhaps, or a nudibranch.)
In the conference room, crisp greys and blacks are eloquent of efficiency while the odd and sometimes alarming splash of colour says that the wearer is possessed of a great personality which the kids just love. At which point you begin to regret your choice of dirty denim and that favourite S-x Pistols t-shirt.
The place of mortification is often a room in a conference centre which is the architectural equivalent of Gordon Brown or our own Krudd. Colourless. The room will either be underventilated — in a conference space no-one can hear you squeam as your deodorant dies an hour into the session — or dispensing an arctic chill which makes Juliet’s tomb seem inviting.
There are crappy mints in bowls (teachers cannot resist anything edible and free) and crappy notepads and crappy coffee in crappy mugs which advertise the company running the PD. Why are we here? To learn something we probably already know. But our masters wish confirmed that we know what we know so insist we spend many hours acquiring dinky little certificates which attest to the fact.
As the session progresses you begin to wonder whether something odd and faintly unpleasant has not occurred in the space-time continuum. Surely these ice-breaker games are derived from the kindergarten. (Nothing sadder, be assured, than a bunch of middle-aged teachers attempting a game of hackysack.)
“Share!” the convenor commands like an evangelical snake charmer.
After hours of this mush being forced down your throat in the pedagogical version of aeroplanes (open wide), all you want is to retire alone to a very dark room. For life.